A war is being waged against social media by governments around the world, but there’s a surprising twist -- they’re supposedly democracies, and the campaigns against social networks are
apparently being waged with the consent or even support of their citizens.
Earlier this week, the Turkish electorate effectively endorsed prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s
crackdown on social media, including blackouts imposed on Twitter and YouTube. They gave his ruling Justice and Development Party 45% of the vote in multi-party local elections that were widely viewed
as a referendum on Erdogan himself, as well as the measures he has taken to silence his enemies.
Erdogan certainly interpreted it that way, celebrating the victory with this promise
to crush opponents who circulated evidence of his alleged involvement in corruption on social media: “We will enter their lair. They will pay for this. From tomorrow there may be some who
Before the election, Erdogan told a cheering crowd in the provincial city of Bursa: “We now have a court order. We’ll eradicate Twitter. I don’t care
what the international community says. Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic's state.”
In this context, it is hard to disagree with Erdogan’s
interpretation. Apparently, a large portion of the Turkish population -- enough to deliver victory in a democratic election -- approves of the decision to impose limits on free speech.
Separately, the founder of Russia’s dominant social network, VKontakte, announced that he is stepping down after pro-Kremlin executives wrested control of the company. Not coincidentally,
these moves came not long after Durov criticized government surveillance of the site and attempts at censorship, including a “request” to the company’s management to remove a profile
created by an opposition group.
Actually, there’s nothing particularly new in all this. There is a name for a system of government that uses democratic methods to rally
support (often from a poorly educated base with economic grievances) to overturn democratic freedoms, control the media, and establish an authoritarian system, all in the name of returning society to
an illusory conservative ideal: fascism.
Good luck with that, guys.