Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is becoming more authoritarian by the day. His government has announced it will use every tool available to investigate and punish protesters, critics in the media, and social media users. Additionally, Ankara has started to openly threaten foreign websites such as Twitter and Facebook, hoping they will end up betraying their users.
Whenever he gives a speech to his followers or appears on TV, Erdogan repeats that foreigners, not Turks, are the driving force behind the protests that have engulfed Turkey for the last month. For example, he regularly refers to a sinister “interest rate lobby” that, together with certain “foreign capitals,” works to destroy the economy. Since not even he can deny that the ones doing the actual protesting are Turkish, Erdogan and his henchmen can only conclude that they are traitors deserving of the harshest possible punishment.
That is why the government is doing everything in its power to identify protesters active on social media so they can be persecuted. Both Twitter and Facebook have been “asked” to share user information with the Turkish government. It would not surprise me that, once identified, these individuals will be charged with one sort of terrorism or another.
Luckily, the two American social networking behemoths refuse to cooperate. Neither is inclined to step into a country’s domestic political affairs. They are there to serve the freedom of speech and to enable people to express themselves. If a government wants to crack down on dissent, it will have to do so without their help.
The Justice and Development Party (AK Parti or AKP) being what it is, immediately lashed out at these companies. Said minister of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications Binali Yildirim: “The Turkish Republic doesn’t recognize those who don’t recognize it!” For good measure he added a threat: “79 million people will hit them with an Ottoman slap.” Before you think that he is referring to a girlie kind of slap that would not impress anyone: In Turkish culture, the Ottoman slap is an “all powerful“ way to take out one’s opponent.
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