ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – The President of Turkey promised on Wednesday to tighten government control over social media after alleged insults against his daughter and son-in-law when they announced the birth of their fourth child on Twitter.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told members of his party in a televised speech that his government is determined to introduce legislation that would compel social media companies to establish a legal presence in Turkey. The requirement would mean that they could be held financially liable and forced to respond to Turkish judicial decisions.
“See why we resist social media like YouTube, Twitter, Netflix, and so on.” Erdogan asked about the alleged insults from his family members. “It is imperative that these channels are brought under control.”
Erdogan said, “Turkey is not a banana republic. We will reject those who reject the executive and judicial organs of this country. ‘
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said that a number of social media users were detained overnight for tweets that allegedly insulted Erdogan’s daughter, his son-in-law, the finance minister and the couple’s newborn son.
Many Turks rallied behind the President’s family and condemned the insults, including opposition politicians.
Although Erdogan’s comments came to social media just days after the reported insults, his government has long considered changes to control the giants of social media like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube by forcing them to remove content or risk heavy fines and limited access to their platforms.
Critics fear that the action aims to further limit the ability of the Turkish public to access independent news broadcasts in an environment dominated by pro-government media.
Turkey has blocked access to thousands of websites. In January, the government lifted a ban of more than two years on Wikipedia after the Turkish supreme judge declared the block unconstitutional. Turkey had banned access to the online encyclopedia after it refused to remove content deemed offensive by the government.
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