Director of Communications Fahrettin Altun commented on the ‘Guide on the Use of Social Media’ prepared by the Directorate of Communications during his interview for the newspaper Hürriyet.
Why did the Directorate of Communications feel the need to prepare the ‘Guide on the Use of Social Media’?
The use of social media in Turkey is on the rise with each passing day in parallel with its worldwide use. While 49 percent of the world population uses social media, Turkey has 54 million social media users. The number of users in Turkey is above the world average. Turkey is ahead of many countries with its daily social media usage of 2 hours and 51 minutes. We are closely following the digital world. We are trying to fulfil our responsibility to meet the needs of a dynamic platform that continuously improves and expands. On the other hand, we can witness many examples of manipulative use of social media in Turkey, unfortunately. The foes of Turkey, particularly the terrorist organizations, conduct perception management operations by carrying out their attacks targeting social, political, and economic life on social media as well as serving fabricated news reports and several contents aimed at inciting chaos. Among our primary reasons for preparing this guide is to draw attention to all of these issues.
What is included in the Guide on the Use of Social Media?
The guide we have prepared points out the advantages and disadvantages of social media. It also involves advice on how to create a successful user profile and provides suggestions on the use of social media for students, children, young people, and parents as well as information on the security of social media accounts and contents. Directorate of Communications undertakes activities at the national and global level for decent information, decent social media, and decent communication.
How did digitalization and social media change our lives?
Today, technology has become a part and a tool of not only communication but also politics, sociology, trade, education, culture, and art. We have also witnessed that many social events and provocative elements are eliminated through the timely and proper use of social media. We have seen the most important example of this during the coup attempt of July 15, when our President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan went live via a social media, a communication tool, and conveyed the message of unity against the coup to our citizens.
Do you think social media channels are used properly?
Even though social media was used as an entertainment, socialization, or news platform in our country, in the beginning, people have understood over time that it is a major industry. Later on, social media was unfortunately used to provoke and mobilize masses for some social and political events in Turkey. During Gezi incidents, the fight against terrorism, our cross-border military operations, perception management operations were conducted by linking irrelevant footages with Turkey.
"Fabricated news reports are also spreading rapidly"
Apart from the manipulative and provocative posts, we have seen the results of unity and solidarity built for the sensitive issues in society via social media tools. Nevertheless, I am sorry to say that social media platforms can also be used to disseminate made-up news. Social media contents, which often contain incomplete, fabricated, or false information, can spread rapidly.
"Social media should not turn into a crime scene"
One of the responsibilities of the public authority is to prevent social media from turning into a crime scene and to protect personal rights and public interests. Nonetheless, the greatest responsibility rests with the users themselves. On this platform, I think it is useful for individuals to feel responsible and to share their posts accordingly. Additionally, a large population that raises its political awareness through social media unfortunately uses a lot of information from these platforms without confirmation, and they take a political stance accordingly. We see that most of these manipulations are conducted by fake accounts.
“Social media does not represent the whole society”
The question arises at this point as to how much of the society social media represents in Turkey. Although we have facilitated access to technology and internet use for all citizens, the group that is active on social media does not represent the whole society.
What can be done to counter perception management operations on social media?
We should spearhead decent and accurate information flow and content creation. We will continue advocating the truth in the digital world as well as on social media. Once again, I would like to thank everyone who has answered our call ‘Long Live the Truth’.
What kind of a framework would you draw on the legal side of social media?
Users are responsible for their posts on social media. As there are a variety of posts, social media falls within the scope of a wide range of legal areas such as IT law, civil law, criminal law, intellectual and industrial property law. Nevertheless, according to Law No. 5651 on the Regulation of Publications on the Internet and Combating Crimes Committed By Means of Such Publication, the responsibility rests with the person who first downloads or shares the content while using social media. On that account, it is necessary to be careful before you like or share content.
“Beware of frauds and forgers”
Social media can also provide a favorable environment for fraud and forgery. No unconfirmed information, product, or person is to be trusted. The recent example of this has emerged with the fraud method that used the name of the Directorate of Communications and Presidency’s Communications Center (CIMER), claiming that the credit card fees would be returned. We took immediate action against it and warned our citizens that there was no such practice. In addition, many fake accounts show up. People can act aggressively and make insults through fake accounts.