Accepted paper:

Turkish State's engagement with social media and the reproduction of political inequality

Authors:

Elisabetta Costa (University of Groningen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper investigates the political usages of social media in Mardin, a medium-sized town in south-east Turkey. It argues that social media, far from having created a democratic public space, have rather reproduced and reinforced existing inequalities and exclusions of political and ethnic minorities.

Paper long abstract:

This paper investigates the political usages of social media in Mardin, a medium-sized town in south-east Turkey, inhabited mostly by Kurds and Arabs. The Arabs have extensively used social media to share videos, memes and news to support the ruling political party AKP and the Prime Minister Erdogan during events such as the Gezi Park protests and the local elections in 2014. Most of this material was produced and firstly shared by institutional sources. On the other side the Kurds, supporters of the Kurdish nationalist movement and the political party BDP, were little active online as a consequence of State control and social surveillance: BDP supporters were concerned both with the watching by the government and by the other members of their social network. Social media in Mardin were populated more by visual and textual materials supporting the government than opposing it. This leads us to consider that social networking sites have been effectively used by the State in two different ways: for the production and distribution of social media outputs for propaganda purposes, and for authoritarian control and surveillance of political opponents. Finally the paper claims that social media, far from having created a democratic public space, have rather reproduced and reinforced existing inequalities and exclusions of political and ethnic minorities.

panel P26
Social media and inequality