After Turkish leadership warned that they would crack down on online “disinformation,” several Turkish YouTubers were arrested for interviewing their fellow citizens about the nation’s currency crisis.
Since this time last year, the Turkish lira has lost 50% of its value against the dollar amid policymakers’ unorthodox monetary policies — meaning that citizens are dealing with diminishing purchasing power and widespread price uncertainty.
Business Insider reported:
YouTuber Hasan Köksoy, who runs the YouTube channel Kendine Muhabir (which translates to Self Correspondent), said in a tweet translated to English that he was taken out of his bed “like a terrorist” and arrested “for handing a microphone to the public.”
Arif Kocabıyık and Turan Kural were also arrested, according to the local news outlet Turkey Purge, which monitors human rights abuses in the country. On their respective YouTube channels, the men have been interviewing people about the nation’s economy and its impact on their finances. A fourth YouTuber, Mehmet Koyuncu, tweeted that he was not arrested but that police contacted him.
Turkey Purge reported the YouTubers were accused of “denigrating the state and government.”
The arrests follow Turkish leaders’ warnings about crackdowns on social media usage. Business Insider added:
In a recent speech, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called social media one of the “main sources of threats to today’s democracy” and said he would be cracking down on internet media to “fight disinformation and propaganda,” with sentences of up to five years in prison, Al Jazeera reported.
Critics say this could tighten restrictions on free speech. Human rights organization Freedom House’s 2021 Freedom on the Net report, which analyzes internet freedom worldwide, labeled Turkey as “not free,” noting widespread filtering or removal of online content that was critical of the government.
According to the Stockholm Center for Press Freedom, 72 journalists are currently in prison in Turkey and 89 are awaiting trial.
Erdogan’s crackdown on “disinformation” mirrors the policy of other repressive regimes across the world.
After widespread anti-government protests in Cuba, the island’s communist government passed legislation treating “misinformation” as “cyberterrorism.” Citizens had been uploading photos and videos of the protests to social media, drawing international attention to the government’s repressive policies.
Last year, the Chinese Communist Party enacted the “Hong Kong National Security Law” — which, according to the Biden administration, tightened penalties for “secession” and “subversion.” Despite widespread protests that garnered international attention, the law gutted individual rights for citizens of Hong Kong — and led the Biden administration to warn about the “growing risks” of conducting business in the city.
The Biden administration itself, however, is engaging in censorship. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said earlier this year that users “shouldn’t be banned from one platform and not others” if they post “misinformation online.” She also revealed that the Biden administration is “flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation.”
President Biden also alleged that Facebook is “killing people” by allowing a particular group of users to spread their views about COVID-19.
“These twelve people are out there giving misinformation. Anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it. It’s killing people. It’s bad information,” Biden said. “My hope is that Facebook, instead of taking it personally, that somehow I’m saying Facebook is killing people, that they would do something about the misinformation, the outrageous misinformation about the vaccine.”