Recently in an article, Gigi Alford wrote “Russia goes for gold in internet regulation,” and I was going to suggest that Turkey is a close runner-up. However Erdoğan made a comment that raised the hopes of “censorists” in Turkey for the top place in the Censor’Olympics – Russia being the biggest competition. In the past few weeks, we have suffered the adoption into law of two major draconian bills that allow government censorship and surveillance on society. But recent remarks by Erdoğan go well beyond that, talking of blanket censorship.
Already Turkey is a country of heavy regulations regarding expression of opinion, with surveillance mechanisms profiling and labeling citizens according to their ethnic, religious, and political backgrounds. However, as Erdoğan has revealed his true intentions, apparently there will be no more need for profiling and labeling people. Perhaps after an initial trial of a few weeks, the results were too scary; perhaps there was actually a great majority of the country who are discontented with the government and the only way to stop this discontent from spreading would be to shut down the Internet.
In a country that was declared “partly free” even before the Occupy Gezi protests of last year, with the new regulations, implementations, and intentions of the government, it seems as if Turkey will make it to the “not free” list and take the gold medal in the Censor’Olympics!
Here are Erdoğan’s own words regarding social media from last night’s TV interview where he declared his intentions to ban all social media platforms in the aftermath of local elections on March 30th, when mass protests are expected to take place and national intelligence bodies are reported to have already allowed permissions to declare martial law in case of widely spread mass protests in the country under the code name “rise up”:
“We are determined on this subject. We will not leave this nation at the mercy of YouTube and Facebook and other kinds [of social media]. We will take the necessary steps in the strongest way. That includes banning them. Because these corporations/institutions encourage all kinds of immorality, spying, and espionage in order to keep making profits. There are no limits [on social media]; there can not be an understanding of freedom in an unlimited sense. These people exist in all state institutions as well, but our initial step is to remove them from their administrative boards, because once they are gone the process will go smoothly to lower levels. Afterwards, the true meaning of fear will hold them captive! Then they will start wondering where they will flee to. When their leaders are gone, they will all feel the fear…”