Since May 31st, protests have raged in Turkey as demonstrations against demolition of an area in Taksim Square’s Gezi Park gave way to a larger anti-government movement.  Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has been cracking down through police force as the weeks have gone on.  But the crackdowns may have longer lasting impacts for the citizens of Turkey, as Erdogan’s government has been exploring new ways to quell dissent.

Twitter has been an invaluable tool for the protestors, especially in a conflict where there has been little domestic news coverage.  Short of outright banning Twitter, authorities there are now looking into limiting its use, through some creative policies.

turkey-tweets

Social Media Censorship

The first addresses fake social media accounts.

From Bloomberg News:

Turkey will prevent the opening of “fake” social media accounts as part of its efforts to criminalize the incitement of protests, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said today.

Hundreds of thousands of fake accounts have been opened since protests erupted on May 31, disseminating lies and slander and using social media like a “weapon” to incite hatred, Bozdag told reporters in Ankara today. “The opening of fake accounts by individuals will be prevented,” he said. “Slander is a crime under law whether it comes from Twitter, Facebook, news websites, television or from the squares.”

Bozdag ruled out any ban on social media, while warning that the government is working to regulate online activity. “Everyone should know that there is no freedom to commit crimes in this space,” he said. “If someone opens an account, everybody will know who it is.” He didn’t elaborate on how that will be achieved.

As Professor Jacobson covered previously in Imagine There’s No Twitter, It Isn’t Hard to Do (in Turkey), Turkey’s Transport Ministry is also contorting itself to come up with ways to justify limitations by way of the tax code.

From the Hurriyet Daily News:

The Transport Ministry has brought the legal basis of Twitter under the microscope, claiming that it causes information sharing and tax problems. The moves come amid detentions of Twitter users within the framework of the Gezi Park investigation, which has been criticized as “unlawful.”

“Twitter doesn’t have a legal basis in Turkey. They take ads but they do not pay tax in Turkey. It should establish a company compliant with the Turkish Commercial Code, like Facebook and YouTube,” the ministry officials told daily Hürriyet.

Statements referenced by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in that same Hurriyet Daily News article also hint at possible future legislation to change information sharing policies between Turkey and social media providers.

“Turkey signed the cybercrime agreement. However, foreign servers like Twitter and Facebook don’t give content and access information requested by prosecutors. Their reason is that there is no law for the protection of personal information in Turkey,” said Hakan Kızılarslan, an academic at Ankara’s Ufuk University. Kızılarslan said Turkey had not enacted this law since 1996, adding that it was currently waiting in Parliament.

 

Last April, there were rumors that Turkey planned to institute temporary bans on Twitter and Facebook to ensure public safety in the wake of attacks by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the death of two Turkish soldiers in a conflict with terrorists.

From New Europe:

Social media could “provoke great masses”, said Binali Yıldırım, Turkey’s Transportation, Maritime and Communication Minister, when he announced that the country is planning to block access to Facebook and Twitter in order to prevent a “threat to public safety.”

In May, the Turkish government announced the new measure would take place in August and thousands of Turks concentrated in some 40 cities and towns around the country. Turkey’s Internet regulator wanted to introduce a selection of filters that users would choose from before browsing the Internet.

Turkey’s Transportation, Maritime and Communication Ministry of course denied those reports at the time, but given the circumstances today, it doesn’t seem so out of the realm of possibility.

Hackers to Protestors: Blame Us!

Dozens have already been arrested in Turkey over postings on social media, in which authorities have accused them of “spreading false details.”  This, after Erdogan called Twitter society’s “main menace,” and a website that is full of “exaggerations and lies.”

Redhack, a collective of Turkish hackers has come up with a novel way for protestors to escape persecution over their social media postings.  Blame us!

The Hurriyet Daily News reported the other week:

If these tips failed to work, “Users can tell the police that our account was hacked by Redhack, we would take the blame with pleasure,” the group said via Twitter.

One of the major pieces of advice given by RedHack to users was to refuse the allegations, which would force the police to prove their claim. “They write to Twitter to prove your identity, but Twitter does not give the number of IP’s to Turkey as policy,” RedHack said adding that this would lead to the confiscation of their computers. The group also noted that Skype and Facebook gave IP numbers to states, advising to use IP spoofing proxy servers. “Even if they know it’s you but they can’t prove it, they can’t do anything. Play with the rules, have fun,” RedHack said.

Erdogan’s “Us vs. Them”

Meanwhile, Erdogan has ramped up efforts to reach out to his base in Turkey, which is made up of the more religious conservatives in the country, had some harsh words for those who oppose his growing restrictive policies – including those who’ve followed the lead of the “Standing Man.”

From Reuters UK:

“They say they are educated, they are artists, they are the rich, they know everything, they understand it all,” he said from on stage, against a backdrop of the snow-capped Mount Erciyes some 25 km (15 miles) south of the city.

“They think their vote is not equal to the votes of Ahmet or Mehmet or the shepherd in Kayseri. They have enjoyed their whiskies on the banks of the Bosphorus,” he added, electing boos from many in a crowd of more than 15,000.

Erdogan also targeted the “Standing Man”, a protester whose lone, silent vigil on Istanbul’s Taksim Square earlier this week inspired thousands across Turkey to copy him and help relieve tensions after fierce clashes between demonstrators and police.

“What they know best is how to stand still themselves and make others stand still. They have stopped us everywhere, they made us stand in pharmacies, university gates, gas, sugar and bread queues.”

The effects of Turkey’s protests may be far more long lasting than these weeks of demonstrations.