Turkey: Social media and our rights
The EDRi member from Turkey Alternative Informatics Association together with other 11 NGOs from Turkey issued the following public announcement with the title "Reclaiming our rights on social media following the Gezi Park protests":
UN and some international organizations have declared Internet as the main tool of freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Internet and social media are indispensable for the individual to progress, for the individual to take part in society and for a sustainable democracy. Around the whole world masses demand access to information, transparency and participative democracy.
Freedom of expression, freedom to protest and privacy are fundamental human rights. Freedom of expression also consists of dissent. However, defamation, hate speech and call for violence are not included in freedom of expression.
Social media have changed communication and organization styles considerably. Social media is not a “menace” to society, but in the contrary, they are group of tools that are highly valuable for the society.
The use of social media is not an illegal act, but it is part of communication freedom, which is a constitutional right. Eavesdropping into others’ social media communication however is illegal. According to 22nd article of the constitution of the Turkish Republic “everyone has the right to communicate freely. One of the fundamentals of communication is privacy”
Gezi Park protests show us that social media supports the right seeking attempts of the citizens perfectly. This support is performed in order to resolve the information asymmetry between the citizens and the government. Since almost all the Turkish press was ignoring the truth or openly fabricating news, the social media allows the population to learn the truth.
Social Media sharing activities that do not contain defamation, hate speech or call to violence are not a crime. These activities include sharing protest locations and times or sharing medical information such as doctor or pharmacy locations for those who have been exposed to violence.
Citizens may use pseudo names or nicknames while sharing content on Social Media. This is one of the most common practices of the Internet and it is not a crime according to Turkish Republic’s criminal law.
The reason to regulate social media or making it a crime to share content on social media is to threaten people and force them into self-censorship. Self-censorship is one of the most terrifying violations of freedom of expression, information and communication. In a constitutional state where democracy is operational, we cannot accept the authorities to force the citizens to self-censorship.
Twitter, Facebook, Gmail and Hotmail carry information in an encrypted form. It is almost impossible to decrypt or break encrypted information. Having a small lock icon on the address bar of the browser and "https://" prefix instead of "http://" ensures encrypted communication.
It is not possible for third parties to peek through these user data on the Internet in a decrypted form. However all these data are stored in servers in a decrypted form that are mostly operated by American companies. These companies can see and share all user data.
According to various sources including government sources, Facebook is sharing user data with Turkish authorities, while Twitter is refusing data sharing at this moment.
According to the general public opinion, companies that operate Gmail and Hotmail (Google and Microsoft) are sharing user data with authorities over the world.
Communication in Turkish: Sosyal Medya ve Haklarımız
Communication in French: Les médias sociaux et nos droits
(Thanks to EDRi member Alternative Informatics Association - Turkey)