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Corruption and censorship in Turkey

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is looking to increase his control over the Internet in Turkey, especially as cyberspace is increasingly used to level criticism against the politician.

Censorship is one of the most useful tools for a politician who wishes to control his or her image. The media has the power to both make a hero and a villain of prominent figures. One need look no further than the rise and recent fall of Justin Bieber to see just how important the media is in public perception.

But the story is much different when it comes to someone of political power. More than simply falling out of favor of the populous, political figures often times have their power because it was granted to them by the public. This means it is important for politicians to consistently do right by the people they serve. However, this can get mixed up when a politician is also satisfying the economic interests of people who reached their seat of power.

Erdogan's corruption accusations
This has recently become a major issue in Turkey due to the major accusations of corruption that were leveled against Prime Minister Erdogan. In February, a series of phone calls were posted on YouTube that allegedly featured the prime minister's voice. The conversations, if true, would reveal that Erdogan had been engaging in acts of corruption. Deutsche Welle reported that the most compromising of these conversations was between him and his son, in which Erdogan told his son to hide large sums of money. The conversation reportedly took place on December 17, the same day that a major corruption scandal in the country broke.

Erdogan was already in hot water because of the protests that occurred in Istanbul's Gezi Park earlier that year. Over the course of the demonstrations, numerous citizens took to social media like Twitter to level their criticism against the politician.

A paranoid reaction?
The use of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter has the prime minister on the ropes, especially with local elections approaching at the end of March. The Turkish government recently passed a Law on the Struggle Against Crimes Committed on the Internet, that would allow the chairman of the government Telecommunication Authority to block certain URLs or entire websites at his own discretion.

Now, Erdogan wants to take these controls a step further by banning YouTube and Facebook in the country.

"We will not leave this nation at the mercy of YouTube and Facebook," he said in a TV interview, according to the Wall Street Journal. "We will take the necessary steps in the strongest way."

Though Erdogan has come out staunchly against the websites, the Turkish President Abdullah Gul has ruled out the idea of such a ban. However, Gul's stance had little impact on the passing of previous Internet controls.

Managing public perception on the Internet
It can certainly be difficult for governments to control the Internet, but this has not stopped them before. Before the emergence of social media and blogs, it was much easier to control media dialogues, because they moved, for the most part, unidirectionally.

However, with the emergence of these resources on the Internet, news has become increasingly interactive. Outlets are constantly looking for the input of people who are on the ground at certain events, and during times of political turmoil, social media can sometimes be the most up to date source for news.

Deutsche Welle noted that many bloggers who are critical of the Turkish government have begun to create anonymous Facebook profiles so as to stay out of the censors eye, and continue to level criticism free from scrutiny. The news source reported that some bloggers are optimistic that these controls over the Internet will be futile given the amount of software available to circumvent these controls.

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