Turkey

Turkey has a very dynamic social media presence and its Internet market is expanding, but continued progress could be hindered by ongoing political unrest and manipulation. Digital News Report 2015 provides a deep dive into the demographics of Turkey’s social media users, political implications, networks used, and general trust of media sources by Turkey residents.  This piece of my portfolio synthesizes information which evaluates the country’s overall disposition toward social media, and the contributions of social media to particular political moments, especially the Gezi protests of 2014.

The following data bullets from TranslateMedia offer a clear view of the internet environment in Turkey:

  • The level of internet penetration in Turkey is around 45 per cent, placing it outside of the world’s 50 most connected nations.
  • According to one Intel study, over 71 per cent of 13 to 29 year olds live in households with a computer.
  • However, strict internet laws make it very easy for websites to be blocked.
  • In 2010 Reporters without Borders placed Turkey on a list of “countries under surveillance” for its attitude to press freedom.
  • In May 2011 it reported that Turkey’s internet regulator had banned 138 internet keywords including the word free.
  • Turkey also blocks sites that mention the founder of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
  • Under half of Turkey has access to the internet
  • Turkish authorities have strict rules on what cannot be said online
  • Turkey is one of the more socially engaged nations in the world
  • Facebook is the most popular site in Turkey, but it’s been reported that it censors certain politically sensitive words
  • Twitter is popular in Turkey, with the most popular pages belonging to prominent personalities
  • YouTube was banned for 30 months, and only allowed to operate when a Turkish language version, hosted in Turkey, was launched
  • A rumour began circulation online in September 2012, stating that the Turkish government was considering blockingFacebook and Twitter at times of social unrest or disorder, but this was soon denied by official sources.
  • Facebook – Facebook is the most popular website in Turkey, with over 40 per cent of the population using the network (more than 10 million of whom are aged 18 to 24). Turkey is the seventh biggest market in the world for Facebook.
  • Twitter – Twitter is the sixth most popular website in Turkey, with around nine million users. The most popular accounts all belong to popular personalities. Turkish stand-up comedian Cem Yilmaz has a Twitter following approaching three million, while the President of Turkey has over 2.4 million Twitter followers.
  • YouTube – YouTube is the third most popular website in Turkey. A December 2011 comScore report highlighted the popularity of online video in Turkey, when it revealed that in October 2011, Turkish internet users watched an average of 250.7 videos per viewer (coming fourth in the report, behind Canada, the U.S. and UK).
  • YouTube was banned for 30 months in 2008 (after users posted videos Turkey deemed insulting to the republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk). In October 2012 YouTube agreed to operate in under a Turkish domain name for the Turkish market. This gave the Turkish authorities more control over the service in their country. YouTube described this as launching a Turkish language version.

 

The Gezi Protests, an environmental sit-in that turned into a social movement in Turkey, is often compared to the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement with regard to the importance attributed to social media.”  This article takes a deep dive into the Gezi protests, including the conditions inside of Instanbul before and after the protests occurred, and summed up the impact of BSM on the overall movement as follows:

New social media offered powerful tools to protest organizers, reducing transaction costs and presenting channels for the dissemination of messages, images and frames. However, they did not necessarily translate into enduring movements or into robust political parties capable of mounting a sustainable change since they were not backed by mainstream media. As argued by Lynch (2011), social media was adequate to hold together a disparate coalition of millions of Gezi protestors around a single, simple demand such as “Erdogan must go”, but again since this demand was too broad it could not translate into specific, nuanced demands in the negotiation process which followed success. It was not successful at producing a new party or a new political organization which could have sustained the demands of the Gezi protesters in an established organizational framework. In addition, as Lynch (2011) argued, social media became counter-productive when state authorities used Facebook and Twitter to identify and prosecute protesters.

Even though Gezi protests showed a big resentment against the government, it seems like traditional organized oppositional movements are still considered as more effective. However, this is not to say that Gezi protests were inconsequential. In this third year of Gezi’s anniversary, we still observe and hear many referrals to this movement from social media. It seems like even though it did not produce short-term results, Gezi protests planted the seeds of some longer term consequences.

Social media has undoubtedly become a prominent tool for large-scale social movements, such as the Gezi Protests.  But, as ICTs transform over time, instances such as the Gezi protests underscored that there is still a great deal of trust that needs to be established with social media platforms.

Please read on for additional insight into Turkey and BSM:

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