What does Turkey’s prime minister have against social media?
The age of social media is having its day in the sun, so why does Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan want to get rid of these online resources so badly?
The proliferation of the Internet around the world has been one of the biggest game-changing developments of the 20th and 21st centuries. Users have access to a breadth of content, from news stories to blogs that in the past have never been accessible at such great lengths before. It was less than 10 years ago that YouTube first launched, meaning that some of the Internet's major developments have still not been fully realized.
Growth of social media
Another one of the major developments of the Internet over the last decade has been the establishment of online personas and profiles. A user's online presence has moved from someone who can post anonymously in an online forum to one that is in essence a reflection of themselves. Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts and the like are allow individuals to establish a personal space in the online sphere.
The implications of social media are wide spanning. Individuals can connect with one another spanning a variety of distances, from a coworker sitting on desk over, to friends and family who live in other parts of the world entirely. Further, it gives a sense of ownership to one's opinions expressed through social media outlets, rather than an anonymous account name. This increases accountability and provides Internet users with another forum in which to exercise their right to free expression.
Turkish court overturns Twitter ban
While there are a variety of benefits to widespread social media access, this has not stopped Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan from trying to ban in it in Turkey. Recently, he implemented a ban against Twitter that was held up by national court, marking only his most recent attempt to impose limitations on the Internet. Previously, Erdogan helped spearhead a piece of legislation that would allow a single member of the Turkish Telecom Authority to ban any website that it deemed was a threat to national security or was in some other form objectionable.
Fortunately, Twitter, which has long seen itself as a major defender of free speech throughout the world, appealed the ban to the country's Justice Ministry in the capital of Ankara. The court overturned the ruling but indicated there might be a 30 day delay in lifting the ban, according to The New York Times.
The news source noted that many Internet users have been able to bypass the ban through alternative channels, but the precedent set by the prime minister is certainly concerning. The country's local elections are set to take place on March 30. Many believe that Erdogan issued the ban in the run-up to the elections to quiet possible dissenters. This comes at a time when online outlets like Twitter and YouTube were used to incriminate him in various corruption scandals, though the leaks have not been able to be verified.
The BBC recently reported that now Erdogan is looking to ban YouTube. The video hosting site was the outlet of choice to leak the audio clips that incriminated Erdogan of corruption, though news outlets have not been able to confirm their authenticity.
"I don't understand how people of good sense could defend this Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. There are all kinds of lies there," he said during an election rally, according to Reuters.
Regardless of the authenticity of the leaks, these kinds of reactions to social media and content outlets is simply unacceptable in a world where social media is becoming an extension of oneself. Beyond Internet freedom, these issues are ones of personal freedom of expression, and by taking these actions, Erdogan is infringing on the individual rights of citizens.