Erdogan’s Beef With Social Media Gets Louder After Facebook Outage
(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc.’s massive outage on Monday spurred calls for a new digital “order” by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a man with little tolerance for political criticism on social media.
Erdogan’s communications director Fahrettin Altun said the hours-long shutdown showed how “fragile” social networks are, and urged a rapid development of “domestic and national” alternatives.
“The problem we have seen showed us how our data are in danger, how quickly and easily our social liberties can be limited,” Altun said Tuesday in a series of posts on Twitter.
Turkey’s political leaders have had strained relations with social media platforms for much of the past decade, as dissidents increasingly used those services to criticize Erdogan. The president has repeatedly threatened to shut down some social media, citing what he considered to be personal attacks against himself and his family.
Courts banned YouTube and Wikipedia for years, while access to Twitter was slowed to a trickle at times of heightened strife, such as cross-border operations into Syria and terrorist attacks at home. Social media companies have been fined for not appointing local representatives, required by a new law that activists say is an attempt to stifle dissent.
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Earlier this year, the Turkish government urged journalists to abandon WhatsApp, citing new privacy rules set forth by Facebook for continued use of the messaging platform. Most government agencies including the president’s office shifted their communications with journalists to BiP, a rival app developed and run by Turkcell Iletisim AS, where Turkey’s sovereign wealth fund has had a controlling stake since 2020.
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