ErdoIan vs Twitter

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- At the moment, it is like Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan vs. the rest of the world. Not really there yet but, by any account, almost.
The motto is: In order to aance further, you must detect or create enemies, however questionable, and attack them relentlessly.

The new enemy at home, the enemy “personified,” is Mr. HaIim KIlIç, a liberal judge and the president of the Constitutional Court. The reason is well-known by now: The top court issued a ruling stating that the Twitter ban was an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.

Such a daredevil act was, no doubt, interpreted as an open challenge to the prime minister, who these days considers everything in the light of the 45 percent of the vote he won on March 30.

Compared to this legitimacy granted by “my voters,” as he calls them, everything is secondary — particularly the law. Thus, the call on Saturday, sending a subtle message to KIlIç: “take off your [judge’s] robe off [and join politics].”

KIlIç is used to this. Ever since he was appointed by former Turkish President Turgut Özal to the top court in 1990, he has been constantly targeted by the Kemalist establishment and militarist segments of the media and faced smear campaigns due to his “piousliberal” identity.

The new enemy abroad — replacing the vague “chaos,” “robot lobbies or “global assassins” — is more concrete: Twitter.

As a company, that is.

“Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are international companies established for profit and making money,” he said to loud cheers at a rally. “Twitter is also a tax evader. We will go after it. These companies, like every international company, will abide by my country’s constitution, laws and tax rules.”

Twitter executives are expected to be in Ankara today, discussing the issues and possibly facing a series of demands that will have to do with the personal integrity and privacy of its millions of users. According to a study by eMarketer, Turks top the world in Twitter penetration, with 31 percent of the total Internet users in Turkey being Twitter users, followed by Japan and the Netherlands.

The Twitter executives’ visit to Ankara takes place as the YouTube ban continues into its third week, with the government clearly defying the precedent nature of the top court’s pro-freedom ruling.

In many senses, ErdoIan’s post-March 30 multi-frontal battle to expand his power base is a destructive one — and in the long run, rather hopeless.

Let us leave aside the demonization of the top court, since it is obvious that whatever Parliament passes in terms of controversial bills to enhance the ground for one-man rule will be dealt with by it, so I have reason to come back to the issue. ok

The Twitter controversy and YouTube ban takes place as Turkey celebrates the 21th anniversary of its Internet use. Even a swift look into the past two decades is enough to show how welcoming the Turkish society and its new generations have been to whatever it has offered.

Internet penetration in Turkey is almost 50 percent. In urban areas, it is around 75 percent. According to data compiled by AlJazeera, of the 35+ million internet users in Turkey — out of a national population of 74 million — 94 percent are Facebook users. Twitter user figures are almost at the 10 million mark. In social media in general, Turks are in the top 10 global standings, and rising fast. A total of 73 percent use the Internet for social networking while 75.5 percent read news-related content 24 percent use it for commerce.

Given the state of Turkey in the global system, economically and socially, it is apparent that the majority of Turkish society sees the Internet as a great opportunity. Yet ErdoIan, now aggressively adopting all the tutelary reflexes of the old Kemalist tradition, sees it as a huge threat.

The 21-year history exposes how the Turkish leadership is torn between two sides: On one side, its support for progress had led to a geometric rise in Internet usage and on the other, there is a fear of citizens’ right to exercise freedoms through communications, by implementing a law that has severely grave flaws in its text – such as the clause about defamation involving Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the use of the term “obscenity” instead of “pornography.”

You can ban the Internet, but at your own peril. In Turkey, it also has the risk of turning you into laughing stock.

Did you know that although YouTube has been banned for two weeks, it is fully accessible here through iPhone and iPad apps? One can only smile.

YAVUZ BAYDAR (CihanToday’s Zaman) C