What happens when Western forms of media hit governments like China’s or Turkey’s that hold different values about free speech? In the case of Turkey, they expect companies like Twitter and Facebook to expose people who insult state officials — despite the privacy policies upheld by such companies.
Specifically, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is responding to the heavy demonstrations Turkey has endured this June by aiming to prosecute those who incited it using Twitter and Facebook. It is against the law to insult state officials in Turkey, and an Aksam newspaper says a list of 35 people from Facebook and Twitter has been produced by police to prosecute such people, a list deputy prime minister Bekir Bozdag acknowledged.
“Crimes determined as such by the law don’t change if they are carried out through Facebook, Twitter, or through other electronic means,” said Bozdag, and then added, rather tautologically, “No one has the right to commit crimes under the rule of law.”
Facebook doesn’t want to balk on divulging personal information. “We will be meeting with representatives of the Turkish government when they visit Silicon Valley this week, and we intend to communicate our strong concerns about these proposals directly at that time,” said Facebook, as reported by the Associated Press.
Erdogan has been regarded as increasingly draconian, despite his reputation for being a fighter for democracy, after weakening the overly powerful military of Turkey, which has staged three coups against the government over the years. Nevertheless, their insistence that social media venues such as Twitter are a “menace” and the governments’ claim that the protests are being led by foreign bankers in a conspiracy sounds ominous, to say the least. Their media has also downplayed the protests, which were sparked after peaceful activists were violently attacked on May 31.
Whether their democracy is strong and worthy of joining the EU is still up for debate, but dismissing or attempting to dominate free-speech outlets such as Facebook and Twitter would be a step in the wrong direction.