Is social media detrimental to the success of a democratic state? Well, Tayyip Erdogan or Turkish President thinks it is.
The President made the claim on Saturday where he relayed his administration’s plan to pursue legislation that will criminalize the spread of “fake news” and “disinformation” online even though critics say the proposed changes would further tighten restrictions on free speech.
I quoted the term “fake news” because a story is often seen as being “fake” when it doesn’t befit the narratives of the sitting government that claims to be “democratic”.
“Social media, which was described as a symbol of freedom when it first appeared, has turned into one of the main sources of threat to today’s democracy,” Erdogan said in a video message to a government-organized communications conference in Istanbul.
He added: “We try to protect our people, especially the vulnerable sections of our society, against lies and disinformation without violating our citizens’ right to receive accurate and impartial information.”
However, Erdogan’s administration continues to crack down on anything that it deems as being a “threat to democracy” one of which was a law that was passed last year that required social media companies that have over 1 million users to maintain a legal representative as well as store data in the country.
Major social media companies, including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, have since established offices in Turkey.
The new legislation would make the dissemination of “disinformation” and “fake news” criminal offenses that is punishable by up to five years in prison according to pr-government media reports.
In fact, it went ahead with establishing a social media regulatory body.
Turkey would be one of the most democratic countries in Europe as the government has the entirety of its media publishers underneath its control and since social media outlets are the real threat to Erdogan’s view of democracy, why not just censor them all together.
Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net report, published in September, characterized Turkey as “not free,” noting the removal of content critical of the government and the prosecution of people posting “undesirable” commentary on social media.