Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has blasted Twitter and social media in general for spreading rumors and “lies” this weekend as police clashed fought with protests in Istanbul and other cities. Erdogan went so far as calling social media “the curse of society today”.
Demonstrators took over a square in Turkey’s capital city on Friday and Saturday following the government’s brutal response to an environmental protest. Citizens initially gathered in protest at plans to build a mall on the site of a park, but a violent crackdown from police saw thousands more join in as the protest took on a more political theme and spread to nearly 50 cities over the weekend.
In response to details that emerged via the Internet — which included incorrect reports of Internet censorship (sluggish service was put down to crowding) — Erdogan lashed out at the effects of social media, highlighting Twitter, in particular, during an interview [Google Translate link — translation below via @techsoc]:
There is this curse called Twitter. It’s all lies … That thing called social media is the curse of society today.
All these lies [on social media]. [Refers to some false rumors]. You write all that, not everyone sees the correction.
Social media is so often the platform that breaks news of significant global events, but patchy reporting from Turkish media — see below CNN International vs CNN Turkey — and the lack of a response from Erdogan until Saturday gave even greater significance to Twitter, Facebook and independent bloggers. All of these platforms played a key role providing early and ongoing details of the protests, which saw more than 100 demonstrators injured as police used water cannons, tear gas and pepper spray in attempts to disperse the crowds.
The real irony of the Turkish PM’s words are that he is one of the highest-profile figures online in the country. His Facebook Page has 2 million Likes, while his Twitter account has 2.7 million followers — however both are operated by his team rather than Erdogan himself. Given that he following zero people on Twitter, it is clear that he is not as socially savvy as his large audience may suggest.
Further reading: Is there a Social-Media Fueled Protest Style? An Analysis From #jan25 to #geziparki (Technosociology.org)
Headline image via Adem Altan / Getty Images, CNN image via Technosociology.org