Monday, 18 July 2016

How Social Media, Tech Contributed To Failed Coup Of Turkey’s President Erdogan

Though social media sites were been subjected to “intentional disruptions” during the failed attempted coup by suspected military plotters to topple Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan, it played a key role to reach out to his supporters and the rest of the world on the development.

Ironically, Erdoğan – who is an outspoken critic of social media – turned to Twitter as the coup unfolded, making a statement by tweet: “I call our nation to the airports and the squares to take ownership of our democracy and our national will”. In addition, he retweeted posts from the Prime minister and the official presidency account condemning the coup.

People take to the streets in Ankara, Turkey during a protest against military coup. Image credit: gettyimages
The Turkish president, who was out of the capital Istanbul on vacation at the time, also addressed the country via  iPhones’s FaceTime video call shown on television.

In Turkey’s history, it was the first time that its citizens rose up to prevent a military coup. Since Turkey was founded in 1923, the military has toppled the government four times. This time, the coup crumbled quickly as key military commanders rallied behind Mr. Erdogan and popular support turned decisively against those staging the coup.'

Turkey spent years building up its filtering capacity to block specific sites and content, as well as amending its internet law to increase government’s control over content online.

In 2013, Erdogan reportedly described Twitter as a “menace to society”. “I am increasingly against the internet every day,” Erdoğan told a delegation from the Committee to Protect Journalism in October 2014. "We will not leave this nation at the mercy of YouTube and Facebook. We will take all the necessary steps in the strongest way including barring social media".

But without any hesitation, he utilised Twitter and FaceTime video to have his voice heard on the issue at the time that mattered most.


Some tech experts and social media enthusiants have called on Erdogan to reconsider his perception and policies on social media having experienced the positive impact of these platforms and technology to social advocacy and information dissemination.

"In 2007, Turkey passed an internet censorship law that allows the government to ban or block websites. The law was putatively aimed at child abuse images, but internet freedom activists point out that the controls have been used in moments of political unrest or to censor political speech. Now that he also experienced one of the possitive impact of social media, apparently this is the time for him to reconsider his perception of these platforms", Abiodun Orebiyi, a Digital Marketing Strategist said.

"Social media has become indispensable in our societies. No nation can develop beyond the  level at which her people thinks. Globally, political and economic leaders need to look at the good side of what technology generally has brought", he added.

According to Kelvin Samuel, an International Relations expect, censorship of information is common during civil unrest. "During the Egyptian protest in 2011, the government completely shut down all internet access. What happened in Turkey during this failed coup attempt should serve as a lesson that social media and most technological tool can really be helpful in such situations too. All this tools are more of blessing than curse", he said.

Aishat Ibrahim, a talent coach and social media influencer however called for moderate monitoring rather than total shotdown of social media in some part of the world. "As good, cheap, easily accessible and used as social media may be, it is not without its shortcoming. It waste time and cause moral and cultural drift. Since youth are easily influenced by what they see and read, modration of however needed by parents, guardians and even the government for security reasons", she stated.

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