Turkish demonstrations using social media despite censorship

By EDRi · June 5, 2013

In other times, events as those taking place in Turkey now would have
probably been much unknown to the rest of the world. But, over the past
several years, social media has developed spectacularly and with it, its
role in promoting, organizing and responding to protest and revolution.

The protests taking place in Turkey, organized initially in response to
government plans to build a new mall on a green space in the centre,
have turned into a demonstration against the government’s policies.

The fight between the Turkish government and the demonstrating citizens
has not taken place only in the streets but also in the social media. A
huge amount of tweets mentioning hashtags related to the protest have
been sent. One of the reasons for this flood of tweets is a reaction to
the lack of coverage in the Turkish media which has been practically
absent. Turkish protesters have begun live-tweeting the protests and
using smart-phones to live stream video of the protests while urging
Turks to turn off their televisions in protest over the lack of coverage.

The Turkish government reacted by trying to increase censorship over the
online media and by also using the social media via twitter accounts of
government members. The Prime Minister as well as many of the ministers
used their own strategy to accuse protesters of disinformation.

“There is this curse called Twitter. It’s all lies … That thing called
social media is the curse of society today,” said Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Erdogan.

According to TechCrunch, both Facebook and Twitter, have been almost
impossible to access from inside Istanbul, and other parts of Turkey.
“They throttled the bandwidth to the bare minimum so that officially
it’s not blocked, but it’s not loading any more… it looks like the
government is reducing the speed using TTNET which is the ISP they
control,” said an anonymous source. 3G networks have also been blocked.
Turkey’s telecoms regulator argued the access problems were related to
traffic surge rather than an official block, which would require a court

EDRi member Alternative Informatics Association from Turkey commented on
the current situation: “It is highly probable that police used special
jammers to cut whole communication in designated areas. We were
informed by activists that GSM connections had been broken while a
police helicopter went on circles above the Taksim Square. A TTNET
representative (Turkey’s DSL provider monopoly, with ~90% market
share) explained that they haven’t cut or slow down Internet and
probably the police may have been used jammers.” They also said they
are collecting and assessing evidence about social media censorship
and other blocking issues, in order to provide a clear picture about
the situation during the protests.

As a response to access problems, some local shops have removed security
from their WiFi networks to allow internet access although the accessing
speed was very much affected. Yet, social media has proven a significant
tool that has given the protesters a means to communicate and exchange
information, practically in real time, therefore allowing a more
accurate description of events.

According to the news coverage, at least 24 people detained 4 and 5 June
2013 over the messages posted on Twitter. More legal details on these
situations was published by Yaman Akdeniz & Kerem Altiparmak, despite
the fact that further examination of the news’ details is not possible
at the moment due to the confidentiality of the investigations.

Press Release on Twitter Detentions in Turkey (5.06.2013)

Is there a Social-Media Fuelled Protest Style? An Analysis From #jan25
to #geziparki (1.06.2013)

Is there a Social-Media Fueled Protest Style? An Analysis From #jan25 to #geziparki

A Breakout Role for Twitter? Extensive Use of Social Media in the
Absence of Traditional Media by Turks in Turkish in Taksim Square
Protests (1.06.2013)

Turkish PM blasts Twitter and social media for spreading ‘lies’ during
weekend protests

Turkey’s PM rejects ‘dictator’ claims, calls Twitter a ‘menace’ (1.06.2013)

Amid Turkey Unrest, Social Media Becomes a Battleground (3.06.2013)

As Anti-Government Protests Erupt In Istanbul, Facebook And Twitter
Appear Suddenly Throttled (1.06.2013)

As Anti-Government Protests Erupt In Istanbul, Facebook And Twitter Appear Suddenly Throttled

Alternative Informatics Association’s Press release (1.06.2013)