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Turkey’s popular online debate network faces investigation for incitement

Turkish prosecutors have launched an investigation into a popular online debate network, accusing the platform of inciting hatred and enmity in society and inciting people to commit crimes due to a post on the network.

The target of the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office investigation is Ekşi Sözlük (Sour Dictionary), which was Turkey’s first successful social media network, founded in February 1999 before Facebook and Twitter. Users on the platform anonymously debate a wide range of political, economic, social and personal issues. The platform attracts 35 million monthly visitors and is among Turkey’s most visited websites.

The investigation into the platform was trigged by an entry titled “What else should happen for the public to revolt?”

According to a statement from the prosecutor’s office, the entry and the comments made below it include expressions that could be considered elements of a crime, and an investigation has been launched into the individuals who posted the entry and the comments below it.

Some news outlets claimed there was also another controversial entry on the website, titled “Turkish State of Israel,” where some users defended that Turkey should be a state of Israel.

Ekşi Sözlük issued a statement on Twitter and denied the charges, adding that the entries in question have been deleted. The platform said the entry about Israel was taken from the Reddit website and shared on Ekşi Sözlük, adding that there were efforts to manage perceptions of the network through lies, slander and insults.

There is nowadays growing public anger at the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) due to wildfires that started in late July and lasted for more than 10 days, killing nine people and destroying large swathes of forestland. The government is accused of poorly responding to the wildfires and lacking firefighting aircraft to combat the fires.

Although Ekşi Sözlük was once considered the bastion of free speech in Turkey, it has over the years gotten its share from the Turkish government’s efforts to regulate social media platforms and was subjected to pressure, with access to a number of its pages banned upon court orders.

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