[artinfo] Fwd: [spectre] Social Media - An Analysis of Gezi Parki

adrien török adrien.torok at gmail.com
Mon Jun 17 17:34:56 CEST 2013


Several friends and colleagues have put this together over the last
days: If you are following the events in Turkey, this is about the
role of social media - please forward! Turkish and German versions are
also available!

All the best,


The Power of Social Media - The Helplesness of Traditional Media and
#direngeziparki #direnankara, #direnizmir: An analysis of the
Alternative Informatics Association (Alternatif Bilisim)

Residents of Istanbul started a peaceful sit-in as a reaction to the
city governments plans to demolish Taksim Square's Gezi Park on the
May 29th 2013. The demolition was part of the plan to replace the park
and construct a shopping mall on one of the only green areas left in
the central cross road of Istanbul. The reaction was sparked by a
decision making process that lacked any consultation with citizens.
Inhabitants of the city initiated this on-site protest to raise their
voices against the demolition plans, but also to exercise their right
to freedom of speech and to freedom of assembly in a democratic

The first assault on the peaceful sit-in on May 30th was followed by a
brutal police intervention on May 31st, during which protesters were
exposed to disproportionate and excessive force. News of the events
and police brutality found national and international support in
social media as hashtags appeared in Twitter's trending topics, such
as #direngeziparki (resist gezi park) and #occupygezi. Shortly after,
several Facebook groups attracted thousands of supporters. As the news
of increasing police brutality trickled in, protests spilled into
public squares across the country and around the world.

Meanwhile the traditional media kept silent. They muted their
microphones, turned the cameras elsewhere and ignored the unfolding
events at Gezi Park and around the country. This has been due to the
almost monopolistic, concentrated ownership of media channels; the
dependence of the local media moguls on the government; and, fears of
retaliation from AKP (the ruling political party) which has proven to
be intolerant of any social, cultural or economic criticism. If the
media covered the protests, then it was only to re-utter the official
line stated by the government, turning the private media to the
communicator of the provocative language used by the government

These developments led people to rely more on the Internet and
especially on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Vine). Masses
have since turned to these outlets in order to get informed about the
latest developments, and also to act in solidarity with the initial
protesters. On May 31st, Twitter and Facebook were used to organize
further gatherings in prominent public spots in Istanbul to protest
the police brutality in Taksim. Similar initiatives brought people
together at Ankara's Kugulu Park and Guven Park and in Izmir. These
protests were again met with excessive and disproportionate police

Throughout the last days, social media has been used to report the
police brutality occurring in every city and to demand support for the
ever popular public protests. Citizens of all walks of life have
joined ranks in squares and streets; they have used social media to
defy the silence of the mainstream Turkish media. In fact, Gezi Park
protests are an exemplary moment in which social media has connected
the squares across the country, surpassing any dichotomous reading of
"social media vs. the streets."

Why Citizen Reporting Via Social Media is Gaining Force and How?
#korkakmedya (coward media) and #buguntelevizyonuacmiyoruz (we will
not turn on the tv today)

Following the events on May 31st, the protests and the violent
assaults of the police upon its citizens started to spread into other
municipalities and cities. Ever since, people of all ages, professions
and political perspectives have been gathering spontaneously in public
spaces to protest the police brutality and the (lack of) political
consciousness that the current government has been displaying. People
have created hashtags specific to each city in order to help thousands
to coordinate help and urgent needs, document police brutality and
inform the public. People have been using Twitter, Vine, Facebook and
Tumble to share videos, document evidence of police brutality, and
provide instructions for getting medical help and finding safe zones.
As such, citizen journalism performed using social media has been
playing an instrumental role in filling the gap left wide open by
traditional media over the course of the protests.

For the first time in Turkey, mass self-communication has been
happening on such a large scale. This self mass-communication, based
on the use of mobile applications and social media platforms, has once
again emphasized how important citizen journalism has become. This is
especially true in environments where political parties like the AKP
may come to dominate the political sphere and apply censorship to
traditional media.

In response, the government has shown its willingness to turn its
heavy hand to social media. On June 1st Facebook and Twitter were
unreachable for TTNet users, the largest Turkish ISP serving the
majority of the population. As a response new hashtags such as VPN and
DNS have been created and instructions have been provided on ways to
bypass technical obstructions, such as Deep Packet Inspection and
filtering, that can be used by ISPs, i.e., TTnet.

On the Benefits and Limitations of Social Media for Organizing

In this historic moment, which we can call the "Gezi Park movement,"
several dynamics are at place with respect to mass political
organization. Specifically various parts of the society that could no
longer raise their voices due to current government's hegemonic
practices have turned to social media in the following ways: In
response to traditional media's acceptance of the hegemony of the
current government, citizens have not only come to use these
alternative communication channels, but to celebrate them as well.
Mainly using Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Vine, people have given
pluralist accounts of the events using creative slogans. Databases
have been created to collect evidence of police brutality and the
compiled documents have been distributed via blogs, open folksonomies
(such as Eksisozluk) and other mass communication platforms.

Free/Open Source software has been developed and used to distribute
information in the case of emergencies and requests for aid. The
source code of these programs has also been distributed in social
media. In case of potential blockage of social media tools, open DNS
and VPN information have been communicated: technical solutions to
technical barricades. Despite the severity of the situation, social
media has been used to amplify the the carnivalesque tone of the
public actions. People who were exposed to excessive violence, who
were injured, who were taken into custody, those who lost their
relatives turned the Internet and social media into a machine to
expose the irony at the core of the events. The protestors comical
accounts of their acts of resistance, their injuries and their
successes created minor myths in which irony and humor came to
overturn the government symbolically. There are many examples of this,
including calling Gezi Park the BeatingPark, a dog with a sign saying
"If there are no parks, I will shit in a shopping mall," "If there is
so much gas, the shit will be dumped soon," "Hilmi from Toma,"
(replacing Roma (Rome) with Toma the water canon), and sound
recordings of police-radio conversations with ultras after the latter
hijacked Tomas, and the list goes on.

Citizens also turned to poke fun at the outlets that were stifled by
the governments rough practices: some citizens called 911 and ordered
tear gas while others called the Turkish CNN to request a re-run of a
documentary about penguins (CNN Turk, as almost all the other TV
channels, ignored the protests and instead showed a documentary about
penguins - by now its own minor myth). All of these acts helped create
a media language that helped people surpass their fear threshold some
of which can be found under the following urls:


These developments in citizen journalism and participation in social
media had their own complexity. Although social media provided a
discussion platform and a medium for simultaneous communication,
several political groups have tried to benefit from the "stand-up for
Gezi Park" civilian movement and have also behaved unethically in
social media. Further, when social movements are organized over
decentralized or distributed information flows, sometimes there can be
an overload of information from the various perspectives, leading to
mis-representations or biased reporting. The explosion of information
aggregators, not all of which have been well kept, sometimes have
given rise to distrust in the given sources or to statements made on
social media. Moreover, the freedom in creating your own hashtags, the
numerous possibilities for feedback, the creation and spread of
radical thought have also not been free of hate speech. This has also
been reflected on some posters and graffiti that contained sexist,
discriminatory and insulting material.

Social media use has also not been limited only to those who are in
support of the "Stand up for Gezi Park" movement. During the last
weeks, those who align themselves with the current government have
taken to intervening in social media by obstructing information flows
or through censorship. Especially on Twitter, we observed the
introduction of false news that have been manipulated to become
"Trending Topics." On a related note, some people went as far as using
hashtags to disinform the public. This occurred especially with
respect to news about severe injuries and deaths, which due to their
emotional hook were quickly spread by social media users. Yellow
journalism hit a turning point when some claimed that police officers
had resigned from their posts following the violent interventions.
Disinformation had especially dangerous consequences when it turned
out that instructions for safe zones, lawyers and medical help were
actually run by police forces themselves.

We fear that such interventions are likely to cause social panic and
distrust in citizen journalism. Further, these complexities make it
evident that the failure of mainstream media to fulfill its duties has
played an important role in propelling disinformation. In response to
such unethical uses of social media, it has become the responsibility
of the populace to remain calm and take steps to confirm the
trustworthiness of the source, especially prior to distributing

An important response to social media "trolling" has come from opinion
leaders. These included journalists of mainstream media, who, due to
censorship in their usual outlets, have had to reposition themselves
in social media; as well as the artists, politicians (especially Sirri
Sureyya Onder of BDP) and other prominent supporters of the "Stand up
for Gezi Park" platform. Once more, this has shown the crucial role
that opinion leaders have in developing good information disclosure

Despite these challenges, it is important to mention the hard work of
those people who have successfully used social media to report on the
disproportionate use of violence, those who have gone to great lengths
to gather reliable evidence, those who have upheld hashtags which
allowed the linking of these sources (#direngeziparkı, #direnankara
#direnizmir), and those who were committed to disseminating
trustworthy news (and warnings against disinformation) to all
citizens. In all these media practices, especially through the use of
mobile services, we observe the development of a healthy reflex and
intuition against trolls and disinformation.

For examples of some of these noteworthy initiatives, please use the
links below:






Evidence gathering on disproportionate and excessive police violence:



Bogazici Radio (Bosphorus Radio)

Mobile reporting in Ankara:



Real time access has received a special role in the reporting of the
events. Specifically, the use of platforms like Ustream that enable
mobile broadband internet access by allowing people to report in real
time, also makes it possible to mitigate the spread of disinformation
in social media. When real time broadcasting is not an option, then
there is still the alternative process of documenting the events
through on-site recordings, e.g., photos, videos and sound bites.
Especially when violence is asserted and people are in commotion, it
is not trivial to record these interventions. The precondition for
documenting such moments is the presence of multiple recordings from
various angles which eventually need to be pieced together. The
challenge here has been to ensure that when these recordings are
pieced together, they will be reliable sources of evidence of what has
taken place. As the traditional media continues to turn a blind eye
(and ear) to the events and does not take any conscious steps to
challenge what seems to be a prime case of a chilling effect, more
people in Turkey are more likely to contribute to the production of
content to report on the events. We can call the production of all
this material a sign of the prosumer revolution.
The Role Social Media Plays in Overcoming Information Asymmetry

An ultimate advantage governments have over peaceful protests is
information asymmetry. That is, in the course of mass protests during
which people demonstrate their discontent about the actions of the
government, the latter may have access to macro or micro level
information about the protests whereas the prior may be situated in an
information vacuum. By macro level information we refer to nationwide
or international analysis of the protests or information about the
nature of the protests in different geographical locations. On the
other hand, micro information refers to information about the
whereabouts of law-enforcement officers, the injured, safe-zones, etc.

The government may put macro and micro information to use when
strategically deploying law enforcement. This information can increase
the efficiency of the government to suppress the protests -- in some
cases using violence or using the threat of violence. This sort of
information is usually not accessible to protestors, especially during
the kind of spontaneous protests that we are seeing in Taksim. Most
people that have joined the protests in Istanbul and elsewhere have
neither met each other previously, nor do they have experience in
organizing public protests. In a democratic society, the mainstream
press may play an important role in informing the citizens on at least
the macro level analysis of the events. However, as we discussed
earlier, the mainstream press in Turkey has simply vanished or has
been providing reporting that is to the detriment of the people on the
streets. It is exactly under these conditions that social media
provides its users with the ability to instantaneously broadcast micro
and macro level information to wider audiences. Consequently, although
the reach of the social media channels is only limited to "users,"
leaving a good portion of the population dependent on mainstream media
and their information policies, its impact on the protests has been

The instrumental role that social media has played in the protests
that quickly spread across the country has also been recognized by the
government, albeit rather negatively. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan declared that Twitter and social media are a "menace to
society." In so doing, the Prime Minister treated social media
platforms as the scape goats of the protests. Shortly after his
announcement a number of tweets and status updates that had no
confirmed sources started trending in social media. These were later
used in government campaigns to underline the unreliability of social
media platforms as information outlets. In a democratic society, we
would expect social media to be hailed as mitigating information
asymmetry. The Turkish government has decidedly seen it as the source
of the problems it is experiencing.

In this landscape, we have concerns that arise both from the use of
social media in organizing the protests and the governments'
associated position. It is imminent to think of the causes of these
concerns and how these concerns can be addressed. Most importantly,
concerns can be raised with respect to any limitations on the use of
social media that can be imposed through the combined use of filtering
and DPIs. The public is not well informed about the abuse of net
neutrality and the associated use of DPI by the ISP monopoly TTNET.
Government officials have also boldly announced that they could have
imposed even stricter measures, claiming that they could have "shut
down the Internet".

Further, we are observing a reduction of social media use to mainly
Twitter and Facebook (and to some extent tumblr and vine). Activists
have limited access to Free/Open Source software tools and to web
applications outside of the integrated services like Facebook. Most of
the population have never received training on how to use secure
communication channels and encryption. This coupled with the increased
national and international surveillance of social media poses
potential risks of harassment, profiling, and targeting to those who
are active online.

Given the way hashtags are mediated algorithmically or through
collective sharing practices, we are also concerned with respect to
possible limitations on media pluralism and the representation of
minority positions while using social media. If what emerges are
closed conversations, and that coupled with hate speech (especially
among younger users), social media is likely to get critical
attention. It is exactly these weaknesses of social media and
information sharing practices that are invoked when the government
wants to give social media a bad rep and dismiss it as a public
outlet. These matters need to be countered both among social media
users and when these matters are manipulated by the government to
dismiss the importance of social media for a democratic and just
The necessity of developing online tools for the activists

Twitter, which served as the main communication platform during the
Gezi Park protests, announced that it would not apply any form of
censorship towards its Turkish users. While service interruptions
occurred occasionally, there was no proof that this was caused by
Twitter. Furthermore, the Turkish state, other than the few
interventions discussed above, have so far not taken any draconian
measures on limiting access to the Internet. Nevertheless, online
tools which are used to organize and communicate have become so
essential to the protest movement that we cannot leave it solely to
the discretion of commercial parties, such as Twitter. Therefore, it
is imminent that we recognize the need for alternative platforms,
create new tools and develop plans to guarantee the availability and
resilience of a diverse set of communication networks. We know from
the "Arab Spring" how interruptions and surveillance can be damaging
to protests and post-revolutionary struggles. Authoritarian
governments have a track record of cutting down communication channels
with the outer world, before brutal interventions and, at times,
before committing massacres. In order to avoid a black out, we can
develop back up methods like dial up connections, and design robust
anonymous and decentralized subnetworks. Having fast and reliable hubs
that could relay between the protestors and the rest of the world
would also help protesters to reach the outer world in face of black
outs. identi.ca comes to mind as a microblog alternative. Next to
blog/photoblog sites such as Wordpress and tumblr, developing
e-mail/tweet/sms tools that are easy to install, use, and secure,
could also play an important role in resisting mass censorship.
sms2tweet services provided by the Chamber of Electrical Engineers
(EMO) is also something that we should mention. Twitter SMS services,
which are currently provided by all the GSM operators in Turkey, also
provides an opportunity to tweet when the Internet is unavailable. How
this service can be used is explained on the websites of the

In spite of the many tools available and in use, centralized and
corporate technical infrastructures can be vulnerable to state
controls and censorship that are counter to the interests of citizens.
The events show that in Turkey, but also around the world, there is a
need for communication tools that are not totally dependent on such
fragile technologies and companies that are susceptible to government
surveillance plans . It is more necessary than ever to develop such
tools and infrastructures to keep the citizen's voice in the public.

The following are instructions on how to reach the internet and social
media services in case of a black out:

Dial Up Numbers: Tel. No: 0046850009990 User: telecomix Password:
telecomix Tel. No: 00492317299993 User: telecomixPassword: telecomix
Tel. No: 004953160941030 User: telecomix Password: telecomix Tel. No:
0033172890150 User: toto Password: toto Tel. No: 0046708671911 User:
toto Password: toto Tel. No: 0031205350535 User: xs4all Password:

Tweets via SMS send an ams to 4730 the sms should start with EMO +
empty space + your tweet


Username: vpnbook Password: rac3vat9

Server #1: euro1.vpnbook.com (Anonymous VPN) Server #2:
euro2.vpnbook.com (Anonymous VPN) Server #3: uk1.vpnbook.com (UK VPN -
optimized for fast web surfing; no p2p downloading) Server #4:
us1.vpnbook.com (US VPN - optimized for fast web surfing; no p2p

Further Resources:

Alternatif Bilişim Derneği

5 June 2013

More information about the Artinfo mailing list