Turkey targets social media

Looks to punish those inciting protests online

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish authorities are investigating people who allegedly insulted state officials or incited riots on social media, the deputy prime minister said Thursday, in a sign the government is intent on meting out punishment over the massive protests that swept the country in June.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has faced tough international criticism over his government’s heavy-handed crackdown on the unprecedented demonstrations. But in a possible attempt to soften the blow to the country’s democratic reputation, his deputy also said the government would propose further checks on the country’s historically powerful military.

The Aksam newspaper said police had provided Istanbul prosecutors with a list of 35 names of people who had allegedly insulted Erdogan or other officials on Twitter or Facebook. Turkish law bars insults to public figures.


Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag acknowledged the probe, but would not confirm the list. It was not clear exactly what the posts said.

Meanwhile, Facebook expressed concern about Turkish proposals that would require Internet companies to provide user information to authorities.

Erdogan earlier this month branded Twitter a social ‘‘menace’’ for spreading lies after many people turned to the site and Facebook for information. Many Turkish media outlets provided little coverage in the early stages of the demonstrations, likely intimidated into self-censorship by the government’s previously tough approach to journalists.

Nearly three weeks of protests were sparked by a violent May 31 police crackdown on peaceful activists, with thousands expressing discontent over what they say are Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian ways. Erdogan, who has shepherded Turkey to an economic boom and raised the country’s international profile, rejects the charge and cites his broad support base.

The government has dismissed protesters’ general calls for a more pluralistic society and has blamed the protests on a foreign-led conspiracy involving bankers and the media meant to stop Turkey in its tracks. It has also vowed to go after them.


Bozdag took aim at the social media users under investigation, claiming that there were many ‘‘profanities and insults conducted electronically’’ that were against the law.

‘‘Crimes determined as such by the law don’t change if they are carried out through Facebook, Twitter, or through other electronic means,’’ Bozdag said. ‘‘No one has the right to commit crimes under the rule of law.’’

Bozdag said Parliament will consider a government proposal that would amend a regulation the army has cited in the past as grounds for takeovers or interference in politics. It stipulates that it is the military’s duty ‘‘to watch over and protect the Turkish Republic.’’