Turkey's Dictator Erdogan, Who Has Sued Thousands Of Critics, Jailed More, Now Claims That 'Social Media' Is A 'Threat To Democracy'
from the takes-one-to-know-one dept
In the past we’ve pointed out how western politicians’ attacks on social media are only serving to play into the hands of authoritarians around the globe, justifying their crackdowns on free speech and critics. And that doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. The latest is Turkey’s President repeating the exact lines that US/EU politicians have been using to slam social media as “dangerous to democracy” in order to justify even more draconian crackdowns on speech and the press in his country.
We’ve written about Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for years — mostly covering his regular attacks on free expression. Erdogan has sued thousands of people for “insulting” him online. Even more serious is his regular practice of jailing journalists by falsely calling them terrorists. He’s also lead aggressive campaigns to ban any website that portrays him in an unflattering light.
So, you’d think that maybe US/EU politicians might recognize the problems of someone like Erdogan using their own words to further push his agenda. This weekend, Erdogan announced that social media is a “threat to democracy” and pushed for new laws that would criminalized “fake news” being spread on social media.
â€œSocial media, which was described as a symbol of freedom when it first appeared, has turned into one of the main sources of threat to todayâ€™s democracy,â€ Erdogan said in a video message to a government-organised communications conference in Istanbul.
He added: â€œWe try to protect our people, especially the vulnerable sections of our society, against lies and disinformation without violating our citizensâ€™ right to receive accurate and impartial information.â€
I mean, that sounds nearly identical to claims made by people like Senators Amy Klobuchar, Josh Hawley, Elizabeth Warren, or Ted Cruz. Of course, there is no actual democracy in Turkey right now, and Erdogan is just using these claims to justify even greater suppression of speech that criticizes him. As we’ve highlighted over and over again hate speech laws always turn into a mechanism for the government to punish people they don’t like.
As the article notes, Turkey has already moved to have much great control over social media companies, and this new move will ratchet up the pressure:
Turkey passed a law last year requiring social media platforms that have more than 1 million users to maintain a legal representative and 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 â€œdisinformationâ€ and â€œfake newsâ€ criminal offences punishable by up to five years in prison, according to pro-government media reports. It also would establish a social media regulator.
It seems like those US social media companies may want to reconsider their local offices.
But, even more to the point, US and EU politicians going out of their way to exaggerate and slam social media as a “threat to democracy” might want to think a bit more about how their words are being used, almost verbatim, as a justification around the globe to suppress free speech and political criticism.