#BBCtrending: Half a million 'internet censorship' tweets in Turkey

  • 7 February 2014
A demonstration in Ankara in January against Turkey's internet bill

Turks have hit back at a new law tightening control of the internet with more than half a million tweets on the hashtag "Internet Censorship in Turkey".

Moments after parliament passed a new internet bill on Thursday, the hashtag #TürkiyedeİnternetSansürü began to trend in Turkey. Since then, there have been more than 500,000 tweets and a further 150,000 tweets on the English equivalent #InternetCensorshipinTurkey. Turks are big Twitter users, but even by Turkish standards this amounts to a significant swell of opinion, with many calling it "draconian" and a "threat to freedom of speech".

The government says the bill is designed to protect privacy and personal data online. It allows sites deemed to infringe privacy to be removed for 24 hours without a court order and requires internet service providers to register with a new regulatory body.

Social media played a key role in the Gezi Park protests last year. At the time, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan famously referred to Twitter as a "scourge" and called social media "the worst menace to society". Traditional media in Turkey is heavily regulated and, according to Erkan Saka, a political blogger and professor of communications at Istanbul University, the government is now trying to leverage the same influence over social media. He believes the trigger for the new law was a corruption investigation, which started last month, and has resulted in a number of online leaks involving government figures.

For the bill to become law, it needs to be ratified by President Abdullah Gul, and many on Twitter have tweeted him directly - urging him not to approve it. The European Union's commissioner for enlargement Stefan Fule tweeted that the bill "raises serious concerns".

Those supportive of the bill have been tweeting using the term "Not Censorship Personal Protection" (SansürcüDeğil Kişiselkoruma) and this has also gained some traction. As is often the case, politics has played its part in the Twitter war. The latter was started by the ruling AK party's social media team, and #InternetCensorshipinTurkey - in both its Turkish and English forms - appears to have been first used by a Twitter account supporting Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Islamic scholar who is said to be hugely influential in Turkey. There are plans for a demonstration against the bill in Istanbul on Saturday.

Reporting by Cordelia Hebblethwaite

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