News / Europe

Turkish PM Takes Aim at Social Media

People rest in Kugulu Park in Ankara, Turkey, June 24, 2013.
People rest in Kugulu Park in Ankara, Turkey, June 24, 2013.
Dorian Jones
Turkey's prime minister has condemned social media and promised a crackdown on it and its users. There have already been arrests, and new legislation is being drafted to curb its use. But observers claim social media will be increasingly used in the face of a growing police crackdown on protests.

Prime Minister Erdogan is on the stump rallying the party faithful against weeks of civil unrest against what protestors claim is his increasingly authoritarian rule. But addressing thousands of supporters Saturday, he dismissed fears of authoritarianism, claiming the unrest is part a grand international conspiracy that now includes Brazil.
 
"The game played on Brazil recently was the same game that was played on Turkey. The tweets and Facebook messages are the same. These protests [in Turkey] have from the beginning been carried out with grave misconduct, and with malicious intent. They constantly lied, engaged in constant manipulation, published fabricated news, hurled insults, and trampled on justice, " said Erdogan.
 
Erdogan has described social media as a great menace to society for spreading lies and half truths about his government. According to Erdogan's government, social media is a key element in the international plot against him. The government has already confirmed it’s trawling through five million tweets and considering new Internet legislation, as well as extending the powers of the country's spy agency.

Emma Sinclair Webb, researcher on Turkey for the New York-based group Human Rights Watch, says there is a legal basis for controlling tweets. But she worries any new powers maybe abused.

"You can only restrict speech and tweets and writings if they present a direct and imminent threat. So the threshold has to be placed high on any restrictions. Unfortunately what we’ve seen in Turkey for years, whereby dissenting opinion becomes something that gets convicted in the courts, where it shouldn’t," said Webb.

A video clip of a demonstrator overwhelmed by a sea of tear gas in Taksim Square, the heart of the nationwide protests went viral in Turkey. Social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, are being used by protestors to expose police violence and, as in the Arab Spring, they provide a platform for demonstrators to organize.

Yaman Akdeniz is an expert on cyber freedom at Istanbul's Bilgi University. He says while the importance of social media is growing, he worries about a looming crackdown.
 
"People will now switch more to social media platforms because that is one area the government authorities have no control over. You cannot throw water cannon or tear gas on the social media platform. But I don't personally expect the government to control social media platforms; no other government managed to do this. So I think they are going to concentrate on prosecutions, on identification of people - and then everyone is concerned, because they don't know if they are going to be investigated or detained. A lot of people were detained in [the Turkish cities of] Izmir and Adana," said Akdeniz.

Turkish television Saturday showed video of police conducting dawn raids and arresting 22 people. Many people have already been arrested for tweeting.
 
In a trendy Istanbul downtown café, a group of protesters with laptops and tablets in hand are discussing what their next move will be. With some demonstrators charged under the country's anti-terror and organized crime laws, everyone is aware of the risks they are now taking, as this protester explains.
 
"I worry for my close friends that might be detained, and they [the authorities] might try to imprison some of these people for life.  I fear for a lot of people. But that's just the personal aspect of it: when I look at the country, I am really not worried anymore, because I see the people. This is the first time in these lands (that) the people are truly revolting [rebelling] for democracy, for everyone," he said.

During the weeks of unrest, police have played cat and mouse with protestors on the streets of Turkey's cities. Now observers warn that the struggle is spreading to cyberspace.

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More