Erdogan attacks social media as “threat to democracy”

Social media is one of the main threats to democracy, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday, as he vowed to continue protecting citizens from “lies and disinformation.’’

Erdogan made the remarks in a video message to an international communications summit in Istanbul, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported.

“Social media, which was described as a symbol of freedom when it first appeared, has turned into one of the main sources of threat to today’s democracy,” the Turkish president said. 

“We try to protect our people, especially the vulnerable sections of our society, against lies and disinformation without violating our citizens’ right to receive accurate and impartial information,’’ he added.

Erdogan’s government for years has been tightening its grip on the internet and plans to intensify the crackdown through a social media directorate to combat what it calls “fake news, disinformation, provocation and lynch justice in the social networks.”

Government sources have said the bill is currently being drafted for the law that will see violations be punished by fines and up to five years in prison.

“Disinformation has gone beyond being a national security issue, becoming a global security problem,’’ Erdogan said on Saturday, adding that the dissemination of such information was leading to the “tarnishing of millions of lives.’’

Turkey was ranked “not free” by Freedom House in its Freedom in the World 2021 index. The organization said the government continued to expand its attempts to control online sources of news and information. Turkey’s score of 35 out of 100 on social media freedom was lower than that of Rwanda, Belarus and Azerbaijan.

In July last year, the parliament approved sweeping changes to social media regulations, introducing fines, restricted bandwidth and possible bans for social media firms who break the law and giving the government sweeping new powers to regulate content.

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