Turkey tracks down Twitter provokers

Awash in political controversy, Turkey goes after social media users it believes are spreading propaganda.

Jennifer Van Grove Former Senior Writer / News
Jennifer Van Grove covered the social beat for CNET. She loves Boo the dog, CrossFit, and eating vegan. Her jokes are often in poor taste, but her articles are not.
Jennifer Van Grove
turkey protests
Turkish protestors and riot policemen clash on June 1, 2013, during a protest against the demolition of Taksim Gezi Park, in Taksim Square in Istanbul. Police reportedly used tear gas to disperse a group, who were standing guard in Gezi Park to prevent the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality from demolishing the last remaining green public space in the center of Istanbul as part of a major Taksim renewal project. At least a dozen people were injured. BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images

Turkish authorities have detained 25 people accused of using social media to spread false information and provoke antigovernment riots, according to several reports.

Last week, protests erupted in Izmir, the third most populous city in Turkey, over the government's decision to replace Gezi Park, one of a few remaining green spaces in central Istanbul, in Taksim Square with a shopping mall. Demonstrations devolved into a broader critique of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's authoritarian regime and turned violent when police used tear gas and other tactics to break up protests.

Tuesday night, police brought in several people suspected of spreading false information on Twitter and other social media sites, CNN confirmed with an official at the police station in Izmir. The detained parties, reportedly all between the ages of 20 and 25, are said to still be in custody.

The lock-up follows Erdogan's public comments about Twitter's role in escalating protests. "There is a trouble called Twitter," Erdogan said during a television interview on Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported. "Unmitigated lies are there [on Twitter]."

Social media is the frequent friend of protestors. In 2011, Twitter helped propel the Arab Spring movement, a series of protests and demonstrations that spread across the Middle East.