ENDitorial: #ResistSocialMedia in Turkey

By EDRi · June 19, 2013

The wave of resistance that started at Gezi Park on the 29 May 2013 in
Istanbul and has since spread all over Turkey once again revealed a
deep connection between real time communication on social media and
social movements. Throughout the protests, social media platforms have
become the primary news source in this environment where the
mainstream media have proven themselves to be the site of
disinformation or inertia. But even more importantly, social media
have become indispensable as a source of information for those who
have been actively organizing on the ground, cooperating with
different national and international groups, showing solidarity,
gathering evidence against the security forces and providing medical
and legal assistance.

As #DirenGeziPark (#ResistGeziPark) gained in momentum and the role
of social media in the course of the events became evident, the Prime
Minister and other spokespersons of the government started publicly
denouncing these media platforms.

Each statement and press release from the government targeted at
disqualifying social media as an untrustworthy and dangerously
manipulative source of information.

In an interview, the Prime Minister declared that social media is a
“menace to society” and it is full of slander and lies. Vice-Prime
Minister Bulent Arinc stated that social media platforms are centers
of mass manipulation and the government could block/cut off access if
they wanted. What is most unfortunate in Arinc’s statement is the
government’s open threat to put further constraints on the basic
freedoms associated with the use of the Internet. But the threats
were not limited to legal constraints, AKP’s social media advisor Ali
Sahin claimed that “A false tweet is more dangerous than a car bomb.
Legal arrangements regarding social media is a must” and hinted at an
upcoming arrangement to control the Internet based on dubious legal
grounds using disciplinary actions.

A number of disciplinary interventions with respect to current use of
social media have already occurred. Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni
Mutlu mentioned today plans for a “social media operation”. The
attorney General of the Republic in Ankara received a court decision
to investigate the cellular phones of 230 citizens in custody, most
probably with the intention to examine social media use as well as the
social networks of these citizens.

As Alternatif Bilisim, we object to the scapegoating of the social
media through denunciations by government spokespersons. On social
media platforms, citizens of Turkey have found an opportunity to
instantly share with the world the events unfolding on the streets as
well as their democratic demands. It was through this mediated
communication that it was possible to put on the map the
disproportionate and excessive use of force by the police, an ongoing
situation that was eventually admitted by the government, including
the Prime Minister. Without the mediation of social media, authorities
and those interested could not have been informed as extensively of
the extend and brutality of the events occurring on the streets.
Social media platforms hence functioned as communication outlets that
filled the gap left wide open by the mainstream media. The latter
remained blind to the events and avoided any “critical” reporting. Numerous cases of
violation of fundamental rights as well as police violence have been
documented by citizens and brought to the world’s attention. We
believe these reports have played an instrumental role in preventing the further deterioration of tensions with the police.
Furthermore, social media platforms played a crucial role in
organizing rescue and treatment of injured people, which ranged from
those having asthma attacks to those suffering lethal wounds. The
successful use of social media has in that sense has even proven to
save lives.

To sum up, in face of the current political power, social media
platforms have turned into a conduit through which the citizens could
make their voices heard, and through which they could demonstrate to
the world the injustices they have been subject to. The prominence of
social media in the protests has been akin to their use in the Arab
Spring and the Occupy protests. We don’t want to imagine the possible
consequences of the violence that could be asserted by those currently
in power in the absence of the Internet and the mediation of social
media platforms.

We are concerned!

The discomfort government representatives are experiencing with social
media are evident in their communication with the press. In their
public statements, these powerful figures are also signalling that they
are intent on increasing censorship on public information outlets and
in applying further controls to social media and the Internet.

On the ground, dozens of people have been taken into custody for their
use of Twitter during the protests. The lawyers that had access to the
files of these people stated that the imputed accusations are not
supported by substantial evidence. Regardless of the dodgy basis of
the accusations, it is evident that the government is repurposing
Internet and mobile technologies to monitor communications and
illegally collect personal information. State surveillance on the
Internet and the resulting oppression of citizens that express their
views and support towards the protests through the social media is not

We are concerned that in the coming months the AKP government will
become more strict when it comes to enforcing existing repressive laws
that apply to information, press and the internet. Government
spokespersons have also signaled that, when needed, they are ready to
introduce new laws in this respect. We are specifically concerned that
the government will enhance existing practices of surveillance, e.g.,
DPI, filtering, and related disciplinary measures. If their
statements materialize, be it through legal or disciplinary measures,
the effects are likely to reflect negatively upon fundamental rights
and freedoms — as well as on the role of Internet intermediaries
towards governments vs. citizens.

We call upon the government and other political powers to take a
peaceful and conscientious stand towards the protests as well as the
use of social media, and to act in a manner that will calm down

We declare that we will use every democratic right we have and take
all possible legal steps to counter attempts to illegitimately limit
and take away the constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens in a
democratic society.

We also call upon all citizens to claim their fundamental right to
access the Internet and related services. We invite all citizens to
use these conduits more effectively and accurately.

The Power of Social Media – The Helplessness of Traditional Media and “#direngeziparki,#direnankara,#direnizmir”: An analysis of the Alternative Informatics Association

Resist Social Media

EDRi-gram: Turkish demonstrations using social media despite censorship

(Contribution by EDRi member Alternative Informatics Association – Turkey)