Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pledged tighter government control over social media on Wednesday after insults were allegedly directed at his daughter and son-in-law when they announced the birth of their child on Twitter this week, Turkey’s Hürriyet Daily News reported.
On Tuesday, the president’s daughter, Esra, and her husband, Turkish finance minister Berat Albayrak, announced the birth of their fourth child on Twitter. The announcement was allegedly met by messages questioning the child’s paternity, according to Al Jazeera.
Turkey’s Interior Ministry swiftly launched an “investigation” into the messages. By Wednesday, Turkish authorities had already detained eleven Twitter account holders for “insulting a public official,” a crime in Turkey with a minimum sentence of one year in prison, Al-Monitor reports. Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu described those arrested so far as “devils,” according to Kurdish news outlet Rudaw.
“We will keep chasing these cowards who attack a family and the values they believe represented by them through a baby,” Erdoğan vowed on Wednesday, according to Al-Jazeera.
“The lack of monitoring on these [social media] platforms have a role in the rise of this sort of immoral behavior. These platforms do not suit this country. We want these platforms to be banned, taken under control,” the president said.
In a televised speech on Wednesday, Erdoğan announced that his government will introduce new legislation by the end of this year requiring social media companies to establish a legal presence in Turkey. This would allow the government to hold the companies financially accountable and force them to yield to Turkish court decisions, according to the report.
“Do you understand why we are against social media such as YouTube, Twitter, and Netflix? To eradicate such immorality,” Erdoğan told members of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in a conference call on Wednesday, Al Jazeera reports.
Continuing, the president said that the AKP will work toward introducing a bill requiring stringent control over social media platforms.
“As soon as we will bring it [the bill] to our parliament, we want social media channels to be completely removed and controlled. I hope to deal with this issue before the legislative period ends,” Erdoğan said.
Responding to the president’s announcement of the new social media crackdown on Wednesday, Turkish opposition party leaders jokingly tweeted to Erdoğan that they hoped his new bill would be passed after they finished watching their favorite streaming programs, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.
“If you [Erdoğan] close Netflix before the end of Dark‘s last season, I will be offended,” İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Akşener tweeted to the president, in reference to the streaming service’s German science fiction series, which debuted its last season last week.
Erdoğan then responded to Akşener and other opposition leaders mocking him via his Twitter account.
“We [the ruling party] will continue to serve and write history while they watch TV series and films,” Erdoğan replied.
The Turkish government has increasingly monitored its citizens’ social media activity in recent years, with authorities “arbitrarily detaining and legally pursuing” people who post content challenging the ruling party’s official narratives and policy, Rudaw reports.