‘Is Twitter still a menace?’ or ‘The technological side of the coup’
During the Gezi protests in 2013, then-Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan had called all social media outlets, especially Twitter, a menace to society. He said the enemies of the state were organizing and spreading their lies through social media. This view was widely adopted by his party and the state authorities. Many social media outlets were shut down for a long time. The government cracked down on Facebook and Twitter for not having a proper office in Turkey and for not paying taxes from the advertising revenues they earned. I think very similar to the government on the taxation part, but everybody knew at the time that the reason behind the taxing issue was really about having leverage against Twitter in order to apply pressure and acquire information about specific accounts, like Fuat Avni.
For better or worse I have always supported freedom of speech and strongly believed that Turkey needed social media and every bit of freedom it brought.
During the July 15 failed coup attempt, we saw the power of social media outlets when now-President Erdoğan called on people to hit the streets via FaceTime. That call was one of the most important breaking points and it was enabled by a social media outlet.
I am very happy that the coup failed and that social media had something to do with it because I believe that all the fuss about social media being a devilish invention of America to enslave us all will hopefully not be raised again.
WhatsApp was used heavily during the attempt and the aftermath of it. It was reported that the people who tried to seize power also used WhatsApp to instantly update each other. I guess that it shows us that technology is unbiased to your intentions. You can use it to organize a coup, or to get rid of one.
Now people are beginning to use the Telegram application as it doesn’t leave any trace on any server, or so it says. Because ordinary people are afraid of what’s happening. They are afraid that any normal political discussion can get them into trouble as there is news going around about police officers checking peoples’ phones randomly on the streets. It has been reported that they are checking WhatsApp conversations.
Another particularity was flight tracker applications. During the coup you could easily track where Erdoğan’s plane was via flight tracker applications. I strongly urge the authorities to do something about it. I don’t believe that you can track the U.S. presidential plane Air Force One via a simple application. I was really afraid that the people who attempted the coup would use it to find the whereabouts of the Turkish president.
So after all, technology is there for us to use as we please. All we can do is not ban it but encourage its positive usage.