07 July 2020
Since the removal of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “Draft Law on Amendment in Some Laws” bill on April 15th, recent events have revealed that Erdogan seems stuck in his ways when it comes to wanting to closely monitor the public’s use of and access to popular social networking sites.
The announcement came on July 1st when 11 accounts shared content that insulted Albayrak and his wife, Erdogan’s daughter, after they posted the arrival of their fourth child, Hamza Salih, on June 30th. These 11 accounts were later detained after a statement by The Turkish Police Headquarters.
Later, Erdogan spoke to members of his ruling party, the AKP (Justice and Development Party), where he reintroduced an old bill that would monitor the content of popular social networking sites that received more the 1 million daily active users. This included sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and even the messaging platform WhatsApp.
Erdogan has stated before that he and his government are determined to bring into play the legislation which would force network providers to house an official presence in Turkey. However, this would mean that these providers would also be held financially accountable and forced to instill any decisions made by Turkish Courts.
Erdogan added that the lack of regulations was a direct correlation of the “immoral acts” performed on these platforms. He then stated in a televised address from the capital:
“Do you understand now why we are against social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, and Netflix? These platforms do not suit this nation. We want to shut down, control (them) by bringing (a bill) to parliament as soon as possible.”
Although unsurprising, this bold statement has shaken many Turkish people as access to these sites is often crucial for communicating and connecting with others. Turkish people live in a constant state of fear when it comes to freely expressing their opinions concerning the Turkish State, as existing laws prohibit any slurs made about ‘Turkishness’.
The enforcement of this legislation after insults were made about the President’s family is come as no surprise when we consider that the 13th section of the Turkish Penal Code is designated to offenses made towards the Sovereignty of Turkey and Supreme Organs of the State alike. The penalization of these offenses range from a few months to a few years’ imprisonment; this is increased by one-sixth if this offense is made public via press or broadcast organs.
After the President had shared his plans for restricting social media platforms, Turkish people took to Twitter with the hashtag #SosyalMedyamaDokanma which translates to #DontTouchMySocialMedia, leading to the hashtag trending in Turkey after the announcement.
There is power in numbers so we can only hope the millions that have taken to Twitter, and the previously received aid from various international organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch regarding the lack of freedom of expression continue to fight the good fight.