“Avoid Social Media” says Religious Affairs Directorate

Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs has called on citizens to avoid using social media and indulge in “fasting on online relations during Ramadan” when majority of muslims in Turkey will be fasting from dawn till sunset.Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs called for citizens to spend time with families instead of engaging in conversations & activities on social media.

This is in fact a development I would interpret within the framework of the upcoming elections. While government has almost absolute control on conventional media and the sole platform where critical voices can be heard is social media, combined with the rising tide of TAMAM movement online in the last few days, I consider this as an attempt to prevent non-governmental voices from reaching larger parts of the society.

Information & Communications Technology Authority’s chairperson Ömer Fatih Sayan has given an interview to Haberjtürk explaining that Facebook is ‘more’ innocent than Twitter. Sayan said “for the moment being we are just warning, but if we detect any kind of manipulation, we are ready to do whatever it takes, till the end.”

Sayan has also stated that Facebook has taken necessary steps in Turkey, and also clarified that they have active channels of communication with Facebook representatives, further explaining that Facebook is currently in process of adjusting to Turkish legislation. Sayan further said “Twitter is deliberately running from us, allowing manipulation through bot accounts” implying the government’s claims that TAMAM was a social media operation with foreign roots, while analysis of trending topic reveals actual persons behind tweets.

“We will block access to Twitter if necessary, if the Supreme Board of Elections asks us to prevent manipulation; but we do not want to be on the agenda with such an action. We have also issued an order to GSM operators, and our special teams to intervene in national cyber-threats will be ready 7/24” Sayan further stated.

However, I also do not think that the threats of blocking access or calls to not use social media will be taken too seriously by the recipients of this message. The main reason behind this statement is, despite Islamification through hands of the state has been on a raging wave in the last 15 years, as Dr. Volkan Ertit has also been stating for several years, secularisation at the social level has been spreading much stronger than government policies.

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