With protests ramping up across Turkey, tens of thousands people are getting on Twitter to broadcast alleged excessive police force against demonstrators. So many people have taken to the social network that the country's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has blamed Twitter for much of the dissent.
"There is now a menace which is called Twitter,'' Erdogan said in an interview, according to France 24. "The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society.''
And, this is coming from a man who is on Twitter. Erdogan has an active account with 2.75 million followers and nearly 2,000 tweets. The prime minister isn't following anyone, however.
Clashes between protesters and the police ignited last week after Erdogan's government announced restrictions on alcohol and also raised debates on reproductive rights. According to France 24, local TV stations and newspapers are barely covering the protests. So, demonstrators have taken it upon themselves to break the news.
Twitter has an extremely strong presence in the Middle East, especially in Turkey. According to athat looked at Twitter user penetration in 31 countries, Turkey rated second highest, after Saudi Arabia, with 39 percent of Turkish Internet users identifying themselves as active Twitter users; for comparison, the U.K. came in seventh with 21 percent.
During this most recent outbreak of protests in Turkey, 90 percent of tweets are reportedly originating from inside the country, according to a report released Saturday by New York University's Social Media and Political Participation laboratory. During the Arab Spring in Egypt, in which Twitter and other social media were about dissent and rights violations, only 30 percent of the tweets originated inside the country.
While Erdogan has kept an active Twitter account, tweeting several times a day, as of this writing his account has gone silent. It's been 14 hours since his last tweet. It's unclear if he'll continue to use this "menace."