The Turkish Freedom of Expression Association issued a report on the restrictions imposed on social media in Turkey, noting that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s threat to shut down many social media sites will not bring anything new, but entrench the existing situation.
A report titled “Blocked Web 2019: The Unseen Part of the Iceberg” by Yaman Akdeniz, a law professor at Bilgi University in Istanbul, and researcher Ozan Guven, dealt with the restrictions imposed on the Turkish media during 2019, and the date of its publication coincided with Erdogan’s recent threats to impose more restrictions on social networking sites in the country.
The report provided statistical data on websites, news items, social media accounts, and content that were blocked in Turkey in 2019, revealing that there is “a kind of partial block imposed on social media.”
According to the report, the Turkish authorities blocked access to 408,494 websites last year.
The report also mentioned that the Turkish authorities prevented access to 130,000 specific resources (URLs), 7,000 Twitter accounts, 40,000 tweets, 10,000 video clips on YouTube, and 6,200 posts on Facebook.
Akdeniz said, “The Wikipedia Encyclopedia of Information was previously closed in Turkey for two and a half years.”
He added that the issuance of the new report for 2019 coincided with Erdogan’s threats, which came about by chance and was not planned, noting that “blocking access to sites is taking place in Turkey in an unprecedented way around the world.”
“There are more than 408,000 websites, among which 150,000 are resource-specific URLs,” he said, adding, “but we must not forget that these practices are usual in Turkey, as we suffer from a crisis in the freedoms of expression, press, and internet.”
Akdeniz explained that the main goal of issuing this report is to remind people of these matters, because it is sometimes forgotten that the regime in Ankara has previously blocked Twitter, YouTube, and Wikipedia for more than two years.
Erdogan recently announced intentions to pass legal amendments in parliament to impose censorship and control over social media sites, or even to close them.
In his statements, Erdogan pledged to tighten control over social media after he said that his family had been subjected to insults on the internet, and he requested the parliament ban them completely.
Recent posts and comments on social media insulted Erdogan’s daughter Esra and her husband, Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak.
Albayrak had previously posted on his official Twitter account announcing the birth of his fourth son, but he was offended by insulting comments to him and his wife.
The Turkish opposition expressed its condemnation of Erdogan’s statements, stressing that such decisions, if implemented, would entrench the situation in Turkey in which the state controls everything.
Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) issued a decision to impose criminal sanctions on two opposition TV channels, Halk TV and Tele 1, and blackened their screens for a period of five days for allegedly violating broadcasting and advertising laws.
In turn, Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu criticized the decision, asserting in a tweet that “it is not acceptable that the screens of the Halk TV and TELE1 channels are faded and dark, and social media should not be restricted.”