Similar to other national contexts such as Iran, Russia and China, state control of the internet looms large in Turkey. With the steady increase in internet use since the mid-2000s, efforts to confine online communications have amplified as seen through the filtering and blocking of content, the construction of a strict legal framework, and, more recently, the demonization and banning of social media platforms (e.g. YouTube and Twitter bans of 2014). Through the lens of some recent incidents, including the Gezi Park protests, the corruption scandal, and the 2014 local elections, this talk will examine the thriving internet culture and emergence of online civic initiatives in Turkey vis a vis the strict government control. I pay special attention to how the government depicts the internet, social media companies, and users as forces bent on destroying Turkey’s national unity, state sovereignty, social cohesion, and moral values. In this regard, the broader context of my analysis is associated with Turkey’s ongoing political, economic, and social transformation; the tensions between the forces of de-centralization and centralization; and the dialectic relationship between global dynamics, market imperatives and state prerogatives.
Bilge Yesil is an Associate Professor of Media Culture at College of Staten Island, City University of New York. She is the author of Video Surveillance: Power and Privacy in Everyday Life (2009) and the upcoming The Turkish Model? Media, Democracy and the Neoliberal Islamist State. She writes about internet regulation, surveillance, censorship and mediated activism in Turkey.