The Turkish National Police’s anti-cybercrime department is monitoring some 45 million social media users in the country for possible criminal activity committed through the Internet, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.
Department authorities told the Hürriyet daily that online procurement, drug trafficking and illegal betting are the most commonly committed crimes on social media platforms, followed by insulting state authorities. The department has established a special desk dedicated to insult amid a spate of cases opened in recent years for “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
There are around 40 million active Internet users in Turkey, and 45 million people use at least one social media platform. Twitter is the most popular, followed by Facebook and Instagram.
The anti-cybercrime department was founded in 1997 under the name “computer crimes unit.” It became the information technology crimes unit in the 2000s and took its current name in 2013. The department is active in 76 of 81 Turkish provinces with 27,000 personnel, 562 of whom are experts in informatics and content screening.
“Following the July  coup attempt around 1.5 million pieces of content were referred to us for examination, including messages within FETÖ’s [derogatory name for the Gülen movement coined by the government] encrypted communication software ByLock and Eagle. We drafted reports for some 800,000 pieces of content and conveyed them to the relevant authorities. We are aiming to examine another 800,000 by the start of the new year. We examine around 20,000 pieces of content per week and receive 10,000 every week,” department head Erdal Çetinkaya said.
Kürşat Başaran Başoğlu, in charge of the department’s prevention unit, said the unit has “three stages of examination” regarding cybercrime, the first of which is “detecting crimes before they are committed.”
“For example, detecting a cyber attack on an institution, company or state institution. The second stage is intervening in a crime as it is being committed. The third stage is collecting data after the crime was committed and preparing an investigation file,” Başoğlu said.
“Even if the environment is virtual, the crime is a reality. You cannot insult a person, slander or offend in normal life, so you cannot do it on social media platforms, either,” he added.
The department has set up a special desk to investigate “insults against state authorities,” closely monitoring the social media accounts of people “who share posts that include insults or defamation of state authorities.”
The department indicates that there are around 3,000 complaints filed with them daily on average and that on days when there is a terrorist attack, a bombing incident or a demonstration, the complaints can reach up to 30,000.