ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s president vowed Wednesday to tighten government control over social media following alleged insults directed at 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 address that his government is determined to introduce legislation that would force social media companies to establish a legal presence in Turkey. The requirement would mean they could be held financially accountable and forced to respond to Turkish court decisions.
“Do you see why we oppose social media like YouTube, Twitter, Netflix, et cetera.?” Erdogan asked in reference to the alleged insults of his family members. “It is imperative that these channels are brought under control.”
Erdogan said: “Turkey is not a banana republic. We will snub those who snub this country’s executive and judicial bodies.”
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said a number of social media users were detained overnight for tweets that allegedly insulted Erdogan’s daughter, his son-in-law, who is the government minister in charge of Turkey’s economy, and the couple’s newborn son.
Many Turks rallied in support of the president’s family and condemned the insults, including opposition politicians.
Although Erdogan’s comments came days after the reported insults on social media, his government has long been considering amendments that would enable it to keep social media giants such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube under check by forcing them to remove content or risk facing heavy fines and restricted access to their platforms.
Critics fear the move is aimed at further limiting the Turkish public’s ability to access independent news outlets in an environment dominated by pro-government media.
Turkey has blocked access to thousands of websites. In January, the government lifted a more than two-year ban on Wikipedia after Turkey’s top court ruled the block was unconstitutional. Turkey had halted access to the online encyclopedia after it refused to remove content the government deemed to be offensive.