Turkey’s embattled prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoan, is pressing ahead with his plan to ban social-media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, in order to stifle criticism after
revelations of corruption surfaced online.
Following its brutal response to protests last year, the proposed social-media ban is evidence of the Turkish government’s increasingly
authoritarian cast -- but also Erdoan’s growing desperation.
Last week, Erdoan said social-media sites like Facebook and YouTube “encourage every kind of immorality and
espionage for their own ends,” adding, “We are determined on this subject. We will not leave this nation at the mercy of YouTube and Facebook.”
The Turkish prime minister
vowed to implement a ban after March 30, when Turkish municipal elections are scheduled, positioning it as an “election promise.”
While it might suit Erdoan to pretend the
electorate is clamoring for a social-media ban, there is no escaping the fact that this is a draconian, antidemocratic move -- and there’s no mystery as to his motivations. In recent months, the
Turkish PM, whose popularity was already on the wane after last year’s protests, has been stung by accusations tying his son to corrupt developers, including a leaked recording of a phone call
in which Erdoan himself allegedly advised his son on how to hide money and cover up evidence. This and other damaging recordings have circulated on YouTube, including five new clips posted just last
Erdoan has responded by blaming followers of Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric and former ally-turned-rival living in self-imposed exile in the U.S., whom he accuses of
fabricating the audio clips in order to undermine his Justice and Development Party. Gülen has denied any involvement in the secret recordings.
Last year, Erdoan attacked Twitter
and other social media sites as a “menace” and a “curse” for their role in spreading dissent during huge anti-government protests in Istanbul. A number of Turkish Twitter users
were then arrested for making “libelous” comments and “inciting rebellion,” which in some cases simply meant posting photos of police manhandling protesters.