You get a different version of social media in Turkey

You get a different version of social media in Turkey

If you are a traveler or if you are here for business for a short time, you may have a feeling that Facebook and Twitter are not exactly the same as back at home. Don’t worry, you are not going mad, you are absolutely right. Thanks to the “ultra-democratic” government – this is not how I call them; this is how the government talks about its own politics, “ileri demokrasi” – we have a distorted social media experience.

According to CNN, in certain countries, Facebook is faced with a draconian dilemma: Censor your posts or the company gets banned.

Consistently, it decides to censor. This isn’t about your photos or public messages violating Facebook’s own rules, like posting pornography. This is Facebook (FB, Tech30) acting as a government censor on that country’s behalf.

It’s worst in India, Turkey and Pakistan, where thousands of pages and photos get pulled down every year for “blasphemy,” criticizing the government or posting something that’s religiously offensive.

In the first half of last year, Facebook blocked nearly 5,000 “pieces of content” in India. There were nearly 2,000 taken down in Turkey and close to the same number in Pakistan. You can still see those photos and comments outside of those countries. But they’re nonexistent back home. It’s selective blocking.

According to Twitter, the top three countries requesting content removal are: 1. Turkey (477 requests) 2. Russia (91) and 3. Germany (43) The predominant reasons given for removal were also different in nature: “Turkish requests generally focused on claimed violations of personal rights [such as defamation] of both private citizens and government officials. … As for Russia, requests ranged from the promotion of illegal drugs to attempts to suppress non-violent demonstrations. … Most German requests dealt with complaints of alleged hateful and discriminatory content, resulting in 37 percent compliance.”

We can have these numbers because Facebook and Twitter are at least somewhat transparent about how they censor their feed at request. I can only imagine the situation with local social media outlets and content providers.

For Turkish citizens, it is still better to have Facebook, YouTube and Twitter in a distorted manner rather than not having them at all, but still it is a pity that many are not disturbed with the current censorship and call the ways of the government ultra-democratic. Recently President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claimed that freedom of speech in Turkey is far more advanced than what people enjoy in Europe. I believe there is a huge misunderstanding somewhere. At least I hope so. Because if Mr. Erdoğan is telling the truth about the conditions of free speech in Europe, I feel deeply sorry for my friends in the European Union, they probably have no access to any social media outlets. I can tell them what’s going on if they still have phone privileges.