Turkey must keep on social media during unrest

In response to the unfolding situation in Turkey, Access Now has released the following statement on the blocking of social media.

“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,” said Deniz Aydin, Policy Fellow at Access Now. “Turkey blocks and throttles social media wholesale when accurate information is needed most — after terror attacks, during corruption scandals, and now, apparently, military coups. In this year alone, Turkish government has throttled social media applications at least three times, in February, March, and June. These online information controls usually contain gag orders, to hinder media reporting on the incidents.”

“Shutdowns have preceded military sieges and violent crackdowns, as an early warning indicator of atrocities, which we hope doesn’t come to pass in this situation,” said Peter Micek, Global Policy and Legal Counsel at Access Now. “People in Turkey will need access to information and, if there is violence, access to emergency services — all of which depend on stable communications channels. To protect human rights, authorities should keep social media and the internet on.”

“The trend toward targeted social media and messaging app shutdowns continues unabated,” Micek continued, “and officials behind the blocking have enjoyed impunity thus far. The UN Human Rights Council just passed a resolution condemning intentional disruptions like these, and international consensus is growing that there’s no excuse to justify shutdowns.”

The #KeepitOn campaign is supported by nearly 90 organizations from 41 countries around the globe who are pushing back on internet shutdowns at every level, from governments to telcos to tech companies to everyday internet users. The full list of organizations is available on the campaign website: https://www.accessnow.org/keepiton/

The U.N. resolution follows a recent shutdown in Turkey surrounding bombing attacks, one in Bahrain around protests, and another in Algeria to prevent cheating on school exams. Notably, police in Ghana have backtracked from claims that they intend to block social media during upcoming elections in November 2016, after an uproar from civil society groups, politicians, and the U.N.

Last year, Access Now recorded at least 15 internet shutdowns around the world, and has already recorded 25 shutdowns in the first half of 2016.