Bots call for street protests against Twitter ban
ISTANBULThousands of automated fake accounts, or "bots," have invited people to the streets to protest the Twitter ban, daily Cumhuriyet has reported.
Turkey blocked Twitter late March 20, hours after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to "eradicate" the popular social media platform, which was used extensively during the Gezi Park protests last June.
Twitter had started to remove fake accounts allegedly created in Turkey with “manipulative” political motives, including those supporting the hashtags in favor of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), daily Hürriyet reported earlier in the day.
A "pro-AKP botnet" that was created in January was completely removed by Twitter, while another one created in February was still working as of the morning of March 20, according to the report.
"I noticed that the first February accounts are [also] being suspended," researcher Dieter Leder told Hürriyet, two hours after access to Twitter was blocked.
Botnets are collections of Internet-connected programs communicating with similar programs in order to perform a task, such as tweeting a Twitter hashtag at the same time to make it a worldwide trend.
Daily Cumhuriyet has reported that bots were the first accounts to tweet #TwitterİçinSokağaÇıkıyoruz (We'll go out to the streets for Twitter) after the ban went into effect.
The hashtag quickly became a trending topic in Turkey, alarming some government critics who later called on people "to stay at their homes."
"#TwitterİçinSokağaÇıkıyoruz is a hashtag from #akp, none is going out to streets. We'll oust him with votes," anonymous @pingouin_mecont tweeted, pointing to the March 30 local elections.
Some suggested that the government wanted to distract the public by provoking new clashes in the streets, thus turning the spotlight away from the damaging leaks related to the ongoing corruption probe.