The modern world is a difficult one for autocrats and dictators. With the development of the internet and especially social media networks, it’s become much harder for them to control and conceal, as we saw so dramatically during the Arab Spring. But that doesn’t stop them from trying:
“There is now a scourge that is called Twitter,” Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, on live TV. “The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society.”
He was serious. Last night, police raided 38 homes where citizens who had tweeted messages sympathetic to the protests lived—16 were arrested. Many of them are apparently teenagers. The local police apparently honed in on tweets they deemed to be propagandic, and traced them back to protesters’ IP addresses at home.
Their purported crime? Using social media to “instigate public hatred and animosity.” In reality, that means tweeting out supportive words or encouraging fellow citizens to join upcoming demonstrations. Members of the opposition party rushed to send lawyers to the prison where the demonstrators were being held, but none have been released yet.
Even with this crackdown, Erdogan will not stop the dissemination of information. I’ve had friends on Facebook posting VPNs and proxies for Turkish citizens to use to get around the blocks and avoid police attention. The only way to do it is to do what North Korea has done and just not allowed internet access at all. Welcome to the brave, and far more open, new world.