Techdirt has written a few times about Turkey’s difficult relationship with new technology. Unfortunately, it looks like that now includes Twitter, as two troubling decisions against users have been handed down recently. Here’s the first, as reported by the Turkish Web site Hürriyet Daily News:
Model Nilay Dorsa had filed a criminal complaint against Tolga Çam who posted a tweet mentioning Dorsa with “offensive content” in November 2011.
The court board said Çam committed revilement crime by expressing his personal thoughts over Twitter and sharing them with public, considering Twitter as a media platform for the first time in Turkey.
That sets a bad precedent, since it means that writing on Twitter is now regarded as akin to publishing in a newspaper or magazine, with correspondingly severe punishments. Indeed, only a few days later, the same argument was made when a suspended 10-month sentence for “insulting religious beliefs held by a section of the society” was imposed on the well-known Turkish pianist Fazil Say. According to another story in Hürriyet Daily News, the sentence was increased massively because he “published” his thoughts on Twitter:
Say was initially handed eight months for “committing and insisting on committing a crime” before the court tacked on an additional four years because the artist voiced the insult through “a mode of publication.”
Fortunately, the sentence was then reduced to 10 months, and suspended, but made subject to a five-year supervision period, during which time it could still be imposed. A similar three-year supervision was imposed on Çam in the case involving Nilay Dorsa, establishing a clear pattern that is likely to have a chilling effect on the use of Twitter in Turkey.