On Monday this week, İstanbul Bilgi University hosted a conference on how the Internet changes the way we think and act with regard to news and politics. It was called “e-.” The panelists were academic Zeynep Tüfekçi (@techsoc), journalist
Serdar Akinan (@serdarakinan), founder of Bobiler.org Ozan Tüzün (@ozanbey), co-founder of 140journos Engin Önder (@140journos), and the founder of Ekşi Sözlük Sedat Kapanoğlu (@esesci). The panel was moderated by Turkish Informatics Foundation’s President Faruk Eczacıbaşı. It was streamed live on the premises by Medianova.
The issues discussed were quite important as they ranged from the meaning of anonymity to new Internet rules and regulations. Serdar Akinan spoke about how the mainstream media abided by the rules of status quo because of their other business interests, and gave the example of the recent Uludere incident. He was the first journalist
to break the news, even though he was not the only one to have the necessary proof about the ill doings of military. He said the mainstream channels could not deliver the news for hours as they were oppressed by censorship. It was Twitter that gave him the freedom to share the news with the world.
The discussion went on to how the current system punishes anyone who is for freedom of speech. Sedat Kaplanoğlu, who founded a website where anyone can share their opinion on any subject without any editorial filters, told of how he visits the prosecutors’ office at least twice a month. He added that because of this there were three lawyers to every two developers on their payroll. Can you imagine how cumbersome this is for an internet company?
Kaplanoğlu added that he had to explain to different prosecutors how the Internet works and how his website functions, as he is being investigated for other people’s opinion. He said that the prosecutors thought that he wrote everything on his open platform. It is incredible to have such prosecutors, so ignorant to the foundation of the idea of Internet.
Associated Professor at North Carolina University Zeynep Tüfekçi said writing was the first disruptive technology, as it shifted how information was passed on. She said the Internet was doing the same for our era, and claimed that social media had shifted everything. However she underlined that each disruptive technology gradually became mainstream and eventually served the status quo in some way after a method of taming the technology is found. She added that right now in the race between the Internet’s ability to disrupt and its ability to serve the status quo the disruption effect is currently winning. However, she thinks we must be cautious, as Turkey is a leader in the censorship league.
Tüfekçi underlined that any attempt to filter the net via the government is something to be suspicious about, especially if it collects information about how we use Internet, as is the case for Turkey. The filtering attempts of today are made to build an intranet for citizens in the future, she warned.
Engin Önder said the reason why they started 140journos was the way that Serdar Akinan boldly reported the Uludere news through Twitter. Now they have tens of university students who are engaging actively in citizen journalism. 140journos quickly became one of the most reliable news sources for the social age, as they are not in intimate relations with any big company or government.
Such initiatives as 140journos, as well as Bobiler.org - which uses the power of having fun to make us think about local and global events - give me hope about Internet landscape in Turkey. Hopefully, in many years time, when I am writing a retrospective about how the Internet has shifted Turkey’s mind set, they will be at the forefront.