In the protests in Turkey today, many of the factors that led to Eksi Sozluk’s growth have come to the fore, so it’s no wonder social media has been used with such mastery. Instead of Article 301 keeping the mainstream media restrained, the Turkish mainstream press has largely censored itself out of fear of being hit by taxes and fees the government recently leveled against media organizations airing opposing viewpoints. “I’ve never seen Turkish media so obedient to the government. Never,” said Erkan Saka, a new media professor at Istanbul’s Bilgi University in an interview in his office a week before the Gezi Park protests began. The conformity showed days later as Turkish media chose to largely ignore the tens of thousands of protesters voicing their disdain for the government. In one widely cited example, CNN Turk decided to show a documentary about penguins instead of broadcasting live from the protest. An “Offline Twitter” board set up in Gezi Park, showing the deep importance of social media there In response, the protesters have taken to social media almost as a natural reflex. “We have seen one of the greatest media blackouts in Turkish press history,” wrote Saka in email after the protests began. “In this context, citizens could only rely on social media, especially Twitter, as news sources and also news making.” With the mainstream media largely invisible at the start of the protests, the free speech culture fostered by the sozluks went into high gear. Photos of police crackdowns circulated furiously on Facebook and Twitter, as did criticism for the mainstream media. Social channels were viewed as a safe place to speak one’s mind, and also the best place to find out what was actually happening. Eksi Sozluk, meanwhile, served as a place to respond to disinformation and find context about the trending hashtags.

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