Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tweet Tweet: Erdogan's Failed Attempt at banning Twitter (Turkish Local Election Coverage 2014, 5)

Turkey is waking up today to a new day. And, what makes this day different than all other days? As of late last night, courts throughout Turkey issued orders for the social media Twitter to be blocked. In other words, twitter is now banned in Turkey! While this certainly has sent out shock waves in Turkey, and the world, it is not a great surprise considering the recent passage of the internet law

"Don't tire yourself out for nothing Tayyip, we are still here"; a protest
forum group's "Diren Kadikoy-Yogurtcu Park" shared picture
Last year, following the outbreak of the Gezi Park protests, Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, declared that twitter was a “headache.” However, following the December 17th corruption probe, twitter became much more than this, with wire-tapped recordings shared, connecting him and top government officials to massive corruption. Further, they also exposed Erdogan’s direct intervention in the media, among numerous other public and state institutions. While Erdogan is accusing this as a type of "coup" against him by a "parallel state", few doubt the authenticity of the recordings. 

The truth is the move to ban Twitter seems to come out of weakness and not strength. With the local elections just 10 days away, it seems Erdogan, with some polls showing his party could lose Ankara’s municipality, not to mention Istanbul’s, is trying to keep a tight hold over the spreading of new recordings. Further, he could believe that blocking twitter could prevent the immense amount of networking that will occur during the elections via social media.

The problem is that as people logged onto twitter and received the notice that the website was blocked due to a court-order, the twitter waves took ablaze, with Turkish twitter users quickly finding ways to break the ban; within hours hundreds of thousands of tweets had come from Turkey!

A few hours after the Twitter ban took effect, the AKP mayor of Ankara
tweets a smile face ot the world.
If this was not enough, along side of these “rebels,” pro-government newspapers and supporters started to appear. I even took note that Ankara’s incumbent mayor, Melih Gocek, an AKP/Erdogan loyalist, and a known Twitter “addict,” could not resist breaking the ban; he tweeted to the world a smiley face! In short, while most of Turkey was fast asleep, twitter turned into a circus, with most of tweets mocking Erdogan. 

Even if it is clear that his plan has backfired, all eyes will be on Turkey to see how this plays out. There is no doubt that the banning of the internet is just another slap in the face of Turkey’s democracy, which has suffered major blows since the Gezi Park protests. However, the ban on the internet could give the opposition party the push they need.

Caught on a late-night live interview, the opposition CHP Istanbul candidate for mayor, Mustafa Sarigul, lost his cool, and was steaming mad, saying this was an anti-democratic move. Further, he called on Turkey's youth not to take to the streets since this was a clear provocation. 

The next ten days, until the March 30 local elections, will be tense, with no one knowing what is in store; further, there also could be a few surprises awaiting us on election night. Certainly, only time will tell. 

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