The Turkish government’s ill-advised war on social media continued this week with the announcement that it plans to ban “fake” social media accounts following weeks of protests organized, in part, via social media, according to a Bloomberg report Thursday.
Turkey thus joins the likes of China, where Beijing has required microbloggers on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, to use their real names -- a policy clearly intended to intimidate social media users to discourage them from posting unsanctioned opinions.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag claimed that hundreds of thousands of fake social media accounts have been used to spread “lies” and “slander” and incite hatred, and warned: “The opening of fake accounts by individuals will be prevented. Slander is a crime under law whether it comes from Twitter, Facebook, news websites, television or from the squares.” He added: “Everyone should know that there is no freedom to commit crimes in this space. If someone opens an account, everybody will know who it is.”
Earlier this week the Turkish government warned it was preparing new legal regulations for
social media in response to “provocateurs,” with Muammer Guler, a member of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK party, vowing: “Those who manipulate public opinion
and guide demonstrations on Twitter and Facebook will be revealed.” The government has already arrested dozens of people for allegedly spreading misinformation and making
“libelous” comments on Twitter, as well as “inciting rebellion”
While the government contends that social media users circulated false
information online, so far it has released no details on what constitutes “misinformation”; previously some Turkish social media users speculated that the term may include photos of police
On the other side, Turkish hackers are trying to make it harder for the government to squash dissent: according to Bloomberg, a Turkish hacker group called Redhack has invited social media users to blame it for any incriminating posts by claiming their accounts were hacked.