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2,754 arrested in Turkey over social media messages in 2018

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A total of 110,000 social media accounts have been investigated, 7,109 social media users have been detained and 2,754 of them have been arrested in 2018 due to their posts, according to a statement from Turkey’s Security Directorate General, the Demirören news agency reported on Wednesday.

The directorate said 2,828 social media users who were detained this year were released on judicial probation.

Turkey has been carrying out a crackdown on social media as well as print and broadcast media, targeting a wide range of people such as journalists, human rights activists, politicians, members of  nongovernmental organizations, academics, construction workers, physicians and high school and university students.

According to transparency reports published by Twitter, Turkey was the world leader in requests to remove accounts or content – so-called “take down” requests – between 2014 and mid-2017. According to the nongovernmental organization Freedom House, Internet freedom in Turkey has steadily deteriorated, with its Freedom Net Overall Score slipping by 21 points, from 45 in 2011 to 66 in 2017, with the higher score meaning more violations.

Prominent rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has repeatedly criticized the arbitrary use of overbroad antiterrorism legislation in Turkey to punish nonviolent activities, including critical writing and online activism, in violation of the right to freedom of expression. HRW research has also found that investigations and prosecutions for terrorism-related offenses in Turkey often lack concrete evidence and fail to adhere to the principle of due process.

According to a report by the HRW in March, the criminalization of peaceful speech on the Internet has a chilling effect on social media use and has led to increased self-censorship in Turkey. According to a 2017 report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, the use of Facebook and Twitter in Turkey have both declined, possibly due to fears of government surveillance. Some of the people HRW interviewed said that people in Turkey now think twice before posting or reacting to online content criticizing the government.

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