A CHP deputy’s Twitter message on the Suruç incident: “All the media reports that ‘Attack on AKP in Suruç’. However, there are some questions: 1- Would a store owner attack a visiting group with arms? 2- 3 are dead from the side that did supposedly attack, and 1 dead from the “attacked” party. 3. Those who are claimed to be the attackers are taken to the hospital and they commit suicide there? Quite a complicated issue.

 

Quoted in an AlJazeera piece. (Will spike in fake news have an impact on elections in Turkey?)

‘Undermining journalism’

Erkan Saka, a blogger and academic at Istanbul Bilgi University, blamed the government’s crackdown on established news media following the failed coup attempt for the rise in fake news.

Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government closed at least 16 TV channels, 45 daily newspapers and 29 publishing houses, many of which were previously accused of supporting Gulen’s movement.

“The rise in fake news can be attributed to the government’s repeated attacks on established news media, which has undermined the credibility of professional journalism,” Saka said.

Several independent newspapers have been coopted by the state, with many young Turks and savvy internet users resorting to using VPNs to access banned websites, blogs and chat rooms.

However, Facebook and Twitter were still a major source of news for many users, he said, with around 89 percent of Turks using social media as a source of news.

“Because of the media shake-up, sites such as Twitter are playing a devastating role in the spread of fake news.

“This could explain why the government is adopting an approach towards Twitter, rather than Facebook, because it’s far more critical of the government and in the public domain,” Saka said.

This is one way of looking at the fake news phenomena: As credible /and professional media organizations are closed, citizens rely on social media platforms as news resources and they are easily exposed to streams of fake news.

However, as I continue to observe election process, I would like to add a few more words on the state of fake news.

First of all, fake news in Turkey is predominantly produced by mainstream news channels. After the sale of Doğan Media Group a few months ago, one cannot expect a tiny bit of truth from the 90% pro-government dominated Turkish media. Just check out a tragic event that happened yesterday (14 June 2018). In Suruç town- close to Syria border- an AKP MP candidate entered a shop as part of his election campaign with his bodyguards. The store owners reportedly said there is no vote for AKP. They were harassed and in the ensuing gunfight 5 people are killed. Two of the wounded- a father and his son, store owners- were killed in the hospital by the relatives of the killed AKP member. The story is reported in Turkish media as AKP members were attacked by PKK… Turkish media is not only producing propaganda for the ruling party but it went beyond that and it is producing fake news. The Suruç case is only the last of a series of lies.

After only contextualizing fake news in a broader media structure, one should talk about digital media and especially social media:

Twitter is sort of dominated by the opposition, urban and educated citizens who are quick to decipher fake news. However, Facebook is where the filter bubbles are more effective. I observe my father who has recently joined Facebook and he loves to be there. He is exposed to pro-government fake news and he seems to be buying. We have had some intense discussions recently. I believe major sources of fake news are Facebook and Whatsapp groups at the moment. There are also online-only news sites whose postings are particularly effective in spreading the fake news (superhaber.tv is one of the more “credible” ones among these websites).  Besides, as I noted, manipulative mainstream media news find also good venues in social media platforms. 

 

I have recently appeared in two Mediascope programs basically elaborating on what I had said above (in Turkish):

 

 

update: Quoted in a Danish media site: T”he main source of fake news is the mainstream media and government”

 

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