Turkey’s new bill exercising a massive amount of control over social media presents a strange and bewildering turn of events. Defying opposition, it has officially become law – to be implemented starting from October 1st. Turkey now requires representatives of big social media companies such as Twitter to be stationed locally so they can carry out the government’s orders regarding content that needs to be blocked immediately. In a nutshell, the government wants these representatives to act as efficient but mindless lackeys.
This scenario calls to mind Pakistan’s own recent Tahaffuz-e-Bunyad-e-Islam Bill. It too renders free thought powerless, as every published work has to pass inspection before it can be presented to the world. While Pakistan has an arguably strong foundation to stand on when defending censorship and banning – being an Islamic Republic, a bill passed to safeguard religious values seems automatically justified – Turkey is a secular state with no religious or state sponsored motives to peddle.
But religion and promoting statism are not the only motivations that foster a ban-happy mindset. It seems Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been wanting to take stringent action against the internet for a while. In early July, there was an unfortunate incident on Twitter wherein the President and his family came under fire for the wealth gap that exists between political bigwigs and common citizens. In the tweet battle that ensued, Twitter users also hurled sexist insults at President Erdogan’s daughter.
The President appealed to parliament regarding this incident. As a result, authorities began cracking down on social media ‘offenders’. Since then, 16 people have been detained and some even arrested (source: Jam News).
Generally, the consensus is bleak. It seems the new law is being used as a way to cover up dissent and criticism. It is true that some believe Erdogan is corrupt and used unfair means to come into office. Moreover, his conservative policies are not appreciated by free-thinking Turkish people, and neither is his habit of suppressing press freedoms. Turkey is moving in a dangerous direction. If Erdogan isn’t careful, his regime may just become a casualty of the chaos that seems to be lying in wait.