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The Evolution of Erdogan
Turkey Squawks at Twitter

Twitter has just released its yearly transparency reports, and Turkey has emerged as one of the world’s leading social media censors. As the Telegraph reports:

More than 470 content removal requests were made by courts, government agencies, police and others in Turkey [during the last six months of 2014], and Russia came second in a list of 10 compiled below. […]

Meanwhile, more than 90 per cent of tweets withheld after requests from authorities, courts and others, were made in Turkey. A total of 1,982 tweets were withheld, 1,820 within Turkey. […]

Facebook’s transparency report for the first half of 2014 further illustrates the attack on freedom of expression online in Turkey. 1,893 pieces were successfully censored in Turkey and only India was higher with 4,960 pieces.

Turkish requests to censor Twitter increased by 84% after July 1; probably not coincidentally, the surge in requests during the second half of 2014 coincided roughly with the election of Recep Tayyip Erdogan as President in August. Social media has been a popular format to protest alleged corruption within Erdogan’s inner circle. For that reason, the President’s allies have often sought to censor the medium.

Two articles from the current issue of our magazine illuminate the background to Erdogan’s crackdowns, both large (the arrest of prominent opposition journalists) and small (the censoring of individual Twitter users).  Jenny B. White outlines how Turkey’s current internal divides are more complicated than the old secular-Islamist split, and are driven by historical Turkish dynamics such as the “bigman” complex. Erdogan, the current bigman, must be right, cannot be seen to be corrupt, and will not tolerate rivals. And who are those rivals? As Berna Turam points out, the group perceived as the most dangerous are the Gülenists, who were targeted in the aftermath of the corruption leaks.

Erdogan once compared democracy to a street car, which you ride until you get to where you want to go and then get off. He seems to be pulling the cord for a stop harder and harder every day.

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  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Tyrannies always try to shut people up, it’s why the 1st Amendment comes 1st in the US Constitution, because Tyrants can’t survive in the light of truth. We can see the same attempts to just shut people up in the banning of, and leftist protests of, right wing speakers at American Universities. Universities are supposed to be teaching critical thinking, how to find truth with the scientific method, and the importance of keeping an open mind ready to question poorly founded assumptions, hypothesis’s, and even theories that have so far proved predictive.

  • gabrielsyme

    Hey, I have a great idea: let’s house nuclear weapons with these guys! What could go wrong? Erdogan may be a tyrant, but there’s no way he’d seize a couple dozen nuclear weapons to aid his campaign of nationalism and regional pre-eminence. Nope, not worth worrying about.

  • Curious Mayhem

    Erdogan: a streetcar named caliphate. Next stop!

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