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Turkey introduces jail terms for ‘fake news’

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One Turkish opposition lawmaker smashed his phone in parliament in protest at the tough new social media rules

One Turkish opposition lawmaker smashed his phone in parliament in protest at the tough new social media rules – Copyright AFP Manjunath Kiran

Burcin Gercek

Turkey’s parliament on Thursday approved a tough pre-election law that could see reporters and social media users jailed for up to three years for spreading “fake news”.

The new rules cement the government’s already-firm grip on the media eight months before a general election that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan enters trailing in the polls.

The Council of Europe said the measure’s vague definition of “disinformation” and accompanying threat of jail could have a “chilling effect and increased self-censorship, not least in view of the upcoming elections in June 2023”.

The legislation — comprised of 40 amendments that each required a separate vote — was proposed by Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted AKP party and furiously opposed by Turkey’s main opposition groups.

One lawmaker from the secular CHP party smashed his mobile phone with a hammer in parliament to demonstrate how freedom of expression was being destroyed — particularly for the young.

“I would like to address my brothers who are 15, 16, 17 years old and who will be deciding the fate of Turkey in 2023,” CHP lawmaker Burak Erbay said before taking out his hammer.

“You have only one freedom left — the phone in your pocket. There’s Instagram, YouTube, Facebook. You communicate there,” he said ahead of the vote.

“If the law here passes in parliament, you can break your phone like this,” he said.

– ‘War on the truth’ –

Most Turkish newspapers and television channels fell under the control of government officials and their business allies during a sweeping crackdown that followed a failed coup in 2016.

But social networks and internet-based media remained largely free of oversight — much to the growing annoyance of Erdogan.

This began to change when Turkey used the threat of heavy penalties to force giants such as Facebook and Twitter to appoint local representatives who can quickly comply with local court orders to take down contentious posts.

Erdogan began to argue at around the same time that Turkey’s highly-polarised society was particularly vulnerable to fake and misleading news.

Social media have “turned into one of the main threats to today’s democracy”, Erdogan said last December.

The new legislation imposes a criminal penalty for those found guilty of spreading false or misleading information.

It requires social networks and internet sites to hand over personal details of users suspected of “propagating misleading information”.

It also allows the courts to sentence accredited reporters and regular social media users who “openly spread misleading information” to between one and three years in jail.

The government has also started publishing a weekly “disinformation bulletin” aimed at debunking what it deems as false news with “accurate and truthful information”.

Lawmakers rejected repeated opposition attempts to dilute the legislation before the vote.

“This law declares war on the truth,” pro-Kurdish opposition HDP party lawmaker Meral Danis Bektas said.

– ‘Legal harassment’ –

Turkey was ranked 149th out of 180 countries in the annual media freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) earlier this year.

“Authoritarianism is gaining ground in Turkey, challenging media pluralism,” RSF said. “All possible means are used to undermine critics.”

Award-winning media rights campaigner Veysel Ok said everyone in Turkey was now exposed to potential prosecution for their views.

“The members of the opposition, NGOs, bar associations, professional associations, journalists and ordinary citizens… Now, all will be subjected to legal harassment,” Ok tweeted.

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Five Ways To Make Your Startup Stand Out From The Competition

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Five Ways To Make Your Startup Stand Out From The Competition

Making your business stand out from others in a crowded marketplace is key to its success. High-quality products and services, a smart pricing strategy, and effective marketing are just the basics. The most successful entrepreneurs have a few extra tricks that separate their business from the rest of the pack.

Tell a strong story

Businesses need to do two things to succeed; be relevant and distinctive. As Steven Hess, founding partner at WhiteCap, explains, doing one without the other will lead to failure. “Being relevant on its own leads to a focus on price and an inevitable sublimation into the sea of sameness, and customers will not look for you,” he says. “Being distinctive without solving a problem leads to gimmickry and longer-term weakness. You have to do both, and one way of uniting the two is with a strong story.”

This could focus on the founder’s story, what led them to set out on their business journey, how they identified the problem they are solving, and how they are solving it uniquely. Stories can also be drawn from customers; how are they using your products or services? What problem does it solve for them?

“You also need to look at how your competitors are presenting themselves and then present yourself in the opposite way,” says Hess. “This will feel uncomfortable, and most businesses fail at this point. Why do ads for cars, financial services, estate agents, etc., look the same? It’s because most of us don’t want to stand out. We’re afraid to fail and be seen to fail. But if we are not being seen, being distinctive and solving a real problem, we’ve already failed.”

Focus your messaging on customer needs

A company’s messaging has to be focused on its potential customer’s biggest wants and needs. It should clarify what people will get if they buy from you, what transformation they will see, and how they will feel afterward. “Most importantly, it should communicate what people will miss out on if they don’t buy from your startup,” says business growth consultant Charlie Day. “When you shift your messaging from simply trying to grow a business and make money to focusing on your customer’s biggest wants and needs, the sales and growth will come, and it will set you apart from others.”

Target an underrepresented audience

This can be a powerful way for startups to stand out. “By focusing on a group that larger companies often overlook, they can differentiate themselves and appeal to a unique and untapped market,” says Vladislav Podolyako, founder and CEO of Folderly. “And by providing solutions to the specific needs and challenges of this audience, startups can establish a strong reputation and build a loyal customer base.”

For example, a fitness startup targeting older adults can stand out by offering specialized classes, products, or resources. By providing solutions to the physical limitations of older adults, the startup can differentiate itself from other companies, address the unique fitness challenges faced by older adults, and build a loyal customer base.

However, as Podolyako points out, this strategy must be carefully thought out. He says: “The startup may be associated with an older audience only, so you should work with PR agencies to get the positioning right and potentially think about creating a sub-brand.”

Differentiate your social media strategy

A unique voice and communication style will make you stand out on social media. However, it’s not just what you say but what you do that makes the difference. “If everyone is offering ‘how to’ tips on LinkedIn, create some short form behind-the-scenes videos. If everyone is doing special offers on Facebook, publish some tip-based stories,” says Catherine Warrilow, managing director of Daysout.com. “Make yourself accessible for customer support on the social media channels used by your audience, for example, via What’s App or Messenger.”

Respond promptly to customer calls

Making it easy for customers to contact you and get a response is vital for customer engagement and retention. Yet, businesses are surprisingly poor at answering their phones, listing phone numbers on their websites, and responding to voicemails. It’s a massive turn-off for customers, as a survey by global communications company Moneypenny revealed, with unanswered phone calls topping the list of consumer gripes, cited by 43% of respondents, followed by annoying hold music (35%).

Joanna Swash, Group CEO of Moneypenny, says: “Customers use the phone when they have an urgent or sensitive issue to discuss, so companies cannot afford to provide a poor call experience; business will be taken elsewhere. By mastering the art of call handling, businesses can keep their customers happy and loyal and boost the bottom line in the process.”

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Twitter Experiments with Reply Filters, Timeline Controls, and the Capacity to Search Your Tweet Likes

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Twitter Experiments with Reply Filters, Timeline Controls, and the Capacity to Search Your Tweet Likes

Amid the various large-scale changes at Twitter, the platform is also working on some smaller tweaks and updates, which may or may not ever get released, but could provide valuable functionality for many users.

First off, Twitter’s testing the ability to search through your Likes, so you can find out who, specifically, has liked your tweets.

That could help you glean more context when reaching out to someone, or just another way to understand who’s responding to your tweets.

And it could be particularly valuable as a research tool for marketers in understanding their audience and who they’re reaching with their tweets.

Twitter’s also testing a new way to filter your replies, which could be handy if you get a lot of responses to a tweet.

Tweet reply sorting

I mean, I’m not sure how many people are getting so many replies to their tweets that they need a filtering option, but for those that are, this could be a simple way to ensure you’re staying up on the most relevant responses and responders, to better manage your engagement.

Finally, Twitter’s also experimenting with new timeline settings, which would provide more control over your timeline and pinned lists.

Twitter timeline controls

Note also, in the middle screen, that Twitter’s developing an option that would enable you to hide your tweet view counts, which would provide another way to manage your activity in the app.

As noted, all of these are in test mode, with Twitter engineer Andrea Conway posting them for public opinion, before exploring further development. But they could be handy, and while they’re not game-changers as such (which may mean they get less priority), smaller tweaks and updates like this could be significant for certain users, and could make it easier to manage your tweet activity.

We’ll keep you updated on any progress.



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Fed-up accountant 'shocked and disappointed' after his Facebook account is taken down again

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Fed-up accountant 'shocked and disappointed' after his Facebook account is taken down again

A fed-up accountant has spoken of his “disappointment” after his Facebook page was taken down AGAIN. Last July, we told how Suleiman Krayem feared …

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