‘Anti-cybercrime department’ monitors 45 million social media users in Turkey

‘Anti-cybercrime department’ monitors 45 million social media users in Turkey

Fevzi Kızılkoyun - ANKARA
‘Anti-cybercrime department’ monitors 45 million social media users in Turkey

The Turkish National Police’s “anti-cybercrimes department” is surveilling the around 45 million social media users in the country to monitor possible criminal activity committed through the internet.

The department authorities told daily Hürriyet that online prostitution, drugs and illegal betting are the most committed crimes through social media platforms, followed by “insulting state authorities.” The department has established a special desk dedicated to the latter, amid a flurry of cases opened in recent years in relation to “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

In Turkey there are around 40 million active internet users and 45 million people use at least one social media platform. Twitter is the most-used social media platform, followed by Facebook and Instagram.

The anti-cyber-crimes department was founded in 1997 under the name “computer crimes unit,” it became the “anti-information-technology crimes” unit in the 2000s and taken its current name in 2013. The department is active in 76 of 81 Turkish provinces with 27,000 personnel, 562 of whom are experts in informatics and material screening.

“Following the July [2016] coup attempt around 1.5 million pieces of material were referred to us for examination, including messages within [the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization] FETÖ’s encrypted communication software ByLock and Eagle. We prepared reports about around 800,000 materials and conveyed it to the related authorities. We are aiming to examine another 800,000 pieces of material by the start of the new year. We examine around 20,000 pieces of material per week and receive 10,000 every week,” department head Erdal Çetinkaya said.

The department’s prevention unit head, Kürşat Başaran Başoğlu, said the unit has “three stages of examination” regarding cybercrimes, the first of which is “detecting crimes before they are committed.”

“For example, detecting a cyber-attack on an institution, company, or state institution. The second stage is intervening into a crime as it is committed. The third stage is collecting data after the crime was committed and preparing an investigation file,” Başoğlu said.

“Even if the environment is virtual, crime is a reality. You cannot insult a person, slander or offend in normal life, so you cannot do it on social media platforms either,” he added.

The department has founded a special desk to investigate “insults against state authorities,” closely monitoring the social media accounts of people “who share posts that include insults or defamation of state authorities.”

The department indicates that there are around 3,000 complaints filed to them daily on average and on the days where there were a terror attack, a bombing incident or demonstrations then complaints can reach up to 30,000.

cybersecurity, cyber crime, social media, monitoring, Turkey, insulting Erdoğan, freedom of expression, Kürşat Başaran Başoğlu