Image: Muammer Guler
Turkey's prime minister made his disdain for social media clear a couple weeks ago, when he proclaimed that Twitter is "a menace to society." Then, he took his paranoia and discomfort with the free-flowing speech one step further—he encouraged the arrest of dozens of Twitter users, many of them teenagers.
Now, perhaps seeking a legal justification for his social media crackdown, his government has set about writing legislation that would make conducting "witch hunts" on Twitter against the law.
According to the Hürriyet Daily News, Turkey's Justice Ministry "has started working on a draft on crimes over the Internet."
Interior Minister Muammer Güler acknowledged that the law would focus on social media.
“We have a study on those who provoke the public via manipulations with false news and lead them to actions that would threaten the security of life and property by using Twitter, Facebook or other tools of the social media,” Güler said, according to HDN. “Still, we think that the issue needs a separate regulation."
According to the report, the Ministry has already started to investigate the five million tweets that have so far been published relating to the Occupy Gezi park movement.
The fact that 25 arrests and detentions have already been made makes this ludicrous undertaking more dangerous, and the fact that those arrests were made in Izmir, a relatively liberal city, is all the more alarming.
If the Turkish government grants itself the right to arrest and prosecute anyone who tweets about Occupy Gezi, it is essentially terminating its democracy through a digital channel—detaining dissident voices is the oldest halmark of an oppressive authoritarian regime. If this legislation passes, the state of play in Turkey is even more grim than we thought.