Erdoğan is lying about social media grievances, ex-Pentagon official says

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's stated reason for wanting to censor social media is a lie, a columnist writing in the Washington Examiner said on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Erdoğan said that social media needs to be brought under tighter control, after his daughter and son-in-law were allegedly insulted online.

“Do you see why we oppose social media like YouTube, Twitter, Netflix, et cetera?” Erdoğan said, referring to the alleged insults. “It is imperative that these channels are brought under control.”

But Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official, said this was not the real reason for Erdoğan wanting to censor social media.

Rubin mentioned a video posted to YouTube from June 28 in which Erdoğan met with 15 or so high school students to whom he delivered advice.

After the video was posted, the dislikes outnumbered likes by 10-to-1 and, even after Erdoğan rallied internet trolls to support him, there were approximately 300,000 dislikes to around only 100,000 likes and the YouTube video was removed, according to Rubin. 

“It was then that he threatened to disconnect Turkey from social media outlets not controlled by the Turkish government,” Rubin said. 

Rubin said that this incident is indicative of the struggles of Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party face in attracting support from young people; polls show that about 60 percent of Turkish millennials oppose Erdoğan, despite his longstanding influence over indoctrination in schools and universities, and over the media.

“The Turkish president is frustrated, and he is willing to do what all dictators who cannot win policy arguments do: repress rather than convince,” Rubin said. 

"Neither Western journalists nor diplomats should play into Erdoğan’s grievance trap. His dictatorial tendencies have nothing to do with family honour and everything to do with ego and ideology.”