"This entity called Twitter, this YouTube, this Facebook, they have shaken families to their roots ...”
While addressing hundreds of cheering supporters in Istanbul ahead of the upcoming local polls over the weekend, Turkish Prime Minister continued his tirade against social media.
The embattled Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been embroiled in controversy after a series of secretly taped conversations went viral on websites like YouTube and Facebook in December, 2013.
Soon after the scandal broke out, Turkish citizens – especially the ones who are already fed up of his neo-Islamist rule – began criticizing and accusing him of corruption.
To make matters worse, Erdogan, in response to the leaked tapes, passed a controversial new law in February that would tighten control of the internet in Turkey, driving the last nail in the coffin on Thursday night after the Turkish government blocked Twitter.
Erdogan has since spent the last few days vigorously expressing his dislike towards social media forums and how the opinions found there can be “damaging”.
“I don't understand how people of good sense could defend this Facebook, YouTube and Twitter,” the prime minister said on Sunday, adding there “are all kinds of lies there.”
Clearly Mr. Erdogan doesn’t seem to be aware of the importance of social media. So, how about helping him out with the basic uses of these platforms and how they can even help save lives.
Twitter played a key role in the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
“Following the earthquake in Haiti, Twitter has once again become a platform to disseminate the news and, more important, a way to quickly raise money to support relief efforts,” Mark Evans of social media monitoring and analytics Sysomos, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Similarly, a year later, doctors in Japanused Twitter to reach chronically-ill patients in the wake of the devastating March earthquake and tsunami.
“Doctors Yuichi Tamura and Keiichi Fukuda said they sent tweets to 60 patients, telling them where to obtain crucial daily refills of a drug to prevent heart failure when they realized they couldn't reach them by phone due to congestion or damage,” Reuters reported.
Widely notorious for its invasion of privacy, Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook – along with Twitter – also proved to be an invaluable tool for millions of people caught up in the aftermath of the Japan earthquake. It helped people staying in touch with their loved ones and locating them since the phone lines were down.
Following the tornado and hurricanes last year that destroyed much of the central United States, an Oklahoma resident Leslie Hagelberg became a source of hope and comfort for many when she used Facebook to reunite the disaster’s survivors with their belongings.
She created a Facebook page entitled ‘May 19th 2013 OK Tornado Doc & Picture Recovery’ – an open group, asking people to post any pictures or documents that blew into their yard in hopes of returning them to those impacted by the tornado.
The response was amazing. More than 60 items were claimed by their owners within a matter of hours with the help of the Facebook page.
YouTube and other social media sites have become an integral part of networking, research, education and entertainment.
Students get a lot of help from YouTube. From lectures posted on the site by different educators, to learning how best to tackle their science project – everything is available on the site.
In addition to that, many people have started and made their careers through video streaming of their talent be it teaching, cooking, singing, dancing or styling.
Just as an example, Cynthia Abrams from Chicago was paralyzed from multiple sclerosis and had lost all hope after she could no longer afford her treatment expenses.
However, Abrams was able to walk again, thanks to a YouTube video series of a young woman, Karen Cheng, who documented her story of learning to dance over the course of a year. (You can read more about that here.)
Also, accessibility to the web is now one of the most important and basic fundamental rights of an individual.
In a resolution unanimously backed by the United Nations Organization in July, 2012, internet access and online freedom of expression was declared a basic human right.
Tayyip Erdogan should make sense of social media and its usage before it’s too late. Last year’s protests and the demonstrations that erupted earlier this month indicate what could be the consequences if the Turkish Prime Minister continues his crackdown on people’s freedoms.