Internet freedom declined in Turkey under Erdoğan

Internet freedom, said the Freedom House report, “declined in Turkey under the authoritarian tenure of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The Freedom House, a US-based watchdog organization for democracy, has released its 2019 report on media freedom. Turkey ranged 31st of 100 countries.

The report said: “Disinformation and propaganda disseminated online have poisoned the public sphere. Global internet freedom declined for the eighth consecutive year in 2018. Events this year have confirmed that the internet can be used to disrupt democracies as surely as it can destabilize dictatorships.

In April 2018, Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg testified in two congressional hearings about his company’s role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which it was revealed that Facebook had exposed the data of up to 87 million users to political exploitation. The case was a reminder of how personal information is increasingly being employed to influence electoral outcomes.”

Internet freedom, said the report, “declined in Turkey under the authoritarian tenure of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The ruling Justice and Development Party sought every pretext to curb civil liberties online, in response to antigovernment protests, corruption scandals, terrorist attacks, and a 2016 coup attempt.” 

Authorities, added the report, “used antiterrorism laws to arrest tens of thousands of citizens for criticizing the government’s crackdown on human rights. Social media companies were left with no choice but to censor nonviolent political commentary as a condition of doing business in the country, while Wikipedia was blocked entirely for failing to comply with the government’s heavy-handed orders.”

The report also concluded that major international technology platforms serve as a buffer zone against governments' censorial tendencies, with strong encryption technologies preventing the governments from barring access to specific content within a tech platform and the tech companies deliberately refraining from setting up operations in more repressive countries.

Turkey's scores in the report

Freedom score: 31 (Lowest score 0, highest 100)

Freedom rating: 5.5/7 (Lowest score 7)

Political rights: 5/7

Civil rights: 6/7