Turkey probes social network 'insults'

Jun 27, 2013 by Suzan Fraser
Turkish protesters seen flanked by flags in Kugulu Park in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. Turkish police on Tuesday detained at least 20 people allegedly involved in violent protests, as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued to lash out at protesters, and a BBC journalist, claiming they are part of a conspiracy to harm Turkey, and reiterating that the protests were orchestrated by forces wanting to prevent Turkey's rise. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

(AP)—Turkish authorities are investigating people who allegedly insulted state officials or incited riots on social media, the deputy prime minister said Thursday, in a sign the government is intent on meting out punishment over the massive protests that swept the country in June.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has faced tough international criticism over his government's heavy-handed crackdown on the unprecedented demonstrations. But in a possible attempt to soften the blow to the country's democratic reputation, his deputy also said the government would propose further checks on the country's historically powerful military.

The Aksam newspaper said police had provided to Istanbul prosecutors a list of 35 names of people who had allegedly insulted Erdogan or other officials on Twitter or Facebook. Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag acknowledged the probe, but would not confirm the list. It was not clear exactly what the posts said.

Meanwhile, Facebook expressed concerned about Turkish proposals that would require Internet companies to provide user information to authorities.

Erdogan earlier this month branded Twitter a social "menace" for spreading lies after many people turned to the social networking site and Facebook for information. Many Turkish media outlets provided little coverage in the early stages of the demonstrations, likely intimidated into self-censorship by the government's previously tough approach to journalists.

Nearly three weeks of protests were sparked by a violent police crackdown on peaceful activists on May 31, with thousands expressing discontent over what they say are Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian ways. Erdogan who has shepherded Turkey to an and raised the country's international profile, rejects the charge and cites his broad support base.

The government has dismissed protesters' general calls for a more pluralistic society and has blamed the protests on a foreign-led conspiracy involving bankers and the media meant to stop Turkey on its tracks. It has also vowed to go after them.

Turkish protesters seen flanked by flags in Kugulu Park in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. Turkish police on Tuesday detained at least 20 people allegedly involved in violent protests, as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued to lash out at protesters and a BBC journalist he claimed were part of a conspiracy to harm Turkey. Erdogan reiterated that the protests were orchestrated by forces wanting to prevent Turkey's rise.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Bozdag took aim at the social media users under investigation, claiming that there were many "profanities and insults conducted electronically" that were against the law. Turkish law bars insults to public figures.

"Crimes determined as such by the law don't change if they are carried out through Facebook, Twitter or through other electronic means," Bozdag said. "No one has the right to commit crimes under the rule of law."

On Wednesday, Turkey's transport and communications minister complained that Twitter was not cooperating with authorities and said the company has been asked to appoint a Turkey-based official to deal with requests.

Binali Yildirim suggested Facebook was more cooperative, but the company released a statement saying it had not provided user data to Turkish authorities in relation to the protests and was concerned about proposals that would require Internet companies to share 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," Facebook said.

Human rights groups say dozens of people have been arrested and face trial for their involvement in the protests, which resulted in at least four deaths and thousands of injuries—including 11 who lost eyes or their eyesight from tear gas canisters fired by police.

But even as the government took a hard line on , it appeared to be trying to make some amends. Though the European Union decided to revive long-dormant EU membership talks with Turkey this week, it said it would delay them until later this year, citing the government's heavy-handed crackdown on the protests.

Bozdag said Parliament will consider a government-proposed proposal that would amend a regulation that the army has cited in the past as grounds for takeovers or interference in politics. It stipulates that it is the military's duty "to watch over and protect the Turkish Republic."

The Turkish military has frequently intervened in politics in the past, and has staged three coups.

Though new democratic proposal came out of the blue, Erdogan has been at odds with the military for much of his 10 years in office. He has enacted reforms over the years that have curbed the powers of the military, winning him praise for strengthening democracy.

Earlier, this week, the government had also said it was considering a set of measures that would grant greater religious rights to the country's Alevi Muslim community—who have faced discrimination in Turkey.

Explore further: Fitbit to Schumer: We don't sell personal data

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Protests have changed Turkey, says expert

Jun 14, 2013

Ayça Alemdaroglu, a lecturer at Stanford, explains how demonstrations over plans to bulldoze an Istanbul park turned into a broader indictment of the government's ruling party.

Turkey tightens Internet control in YouTube feud

Jun 25, 2010

(AP) -- Furious over Internet insults of the country's beloved founder, Turkey has gone on the offensive against Google, tightening a ban on YouTube and cutting public access to a host of Google-owned sites.

China launches Turkish satellite

Dec 18, 2012

China early Wednesday "successfully" launched a Turkish earth observation satellite into orbit aboard a Chinese rocket, according to state media, hailed in Turkey as a "historic moment".

Turkey 'arrests 32' in raid on hacker group

Jun 14, 2011

Turkish police have arrested 32 people suspected of belonging to a cabal of hackers who sabatoged government websites to protest against Internet censorship, the Anatolia news agency reported on Tuesday.

UK deputy leader: Surveillance bill won't happen

Apr 25, 2013

A mass Internet monitoring program touted by Britain's government as a terror-fighting tool is unworkable, the country's deputy leader said Thursday, vowing that it would not become law.

Recommended for you

Fitbit to Schumer: We don't sell personal data

6 hours ago

The maker of a popular line of wearable fitness-tracking devices says it has never sold personal data to advertisers, contrary to concerns raised by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

Should you be worried about paid editors on Wikipedia?

10 hours ago

Whether you trust it or ignore it, Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the world and accessed by millions of people every day. So would you trust it any more (or even less) if you knew people ...

How much do we really know about privacy on Facebook?

11 hours ago

The recent furore about the Facebook Messenger app has unearthed an interesting question: how far are we willing to allow our privacy to be pushed for our social connections? In the case of the Facebook ...

Philippines makes arrests in online extortion ring

11 hours ago

Philippine police have arrested eight suspected members of an online syndicate accused of blackmailing more than 1,000 Hong Kong and Singapore residents after luring them into exposing themselves in front of webcam, an official ...

Google to help boost Greece's tourism industry

Aug 21, 2014

Internet giant Google will offer management courses to 3,000 tourism businesses on the island of Crete as part of an initiative to promote the sector in Greece, industry union Sete said on Thursday.

Music site SoundCloud to start paying artists

Aug 21, 2014

SoundCloud said Thursday that it will start paying artists and record companies whose music is played on the popular streaming site, a move that will bring it in line with competitors such as YouTube and Spotify.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Matthewwa25
3 / 5 (2) Jun 27, 2013
What a dictatorship!