In an upstairs conference room during the 2014 SxSW Interactive, a year after the same room had hosted Bassem Youssef and his Egyptian (comedy) uprising, the #occupygezi movement took the daïs. It’s a wide movement, of course, but it was ably represented by Eda Demir and Yalçın Pembecioğlu of the Istanbul-based online publication Bigumigu. The tl;dr version of their panel: last summer’s uprising (which pitted Turkish youth against the creeping autocracy of the ruling AKP) was, in key ways, a Twitter revolution.
If there were any observers from Turkey’s ruling AKP party in the crowd (and really, it would be surprising if there weren’t, given the level of paranoia and censorship that has taken hold there), they would have been nodding along in agreement. Late last week, quick on the heels of a new promise by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s to “eradicate” Twitter, the authorities moved to block all access to the social network. The hashtag #Twitterisblockedinturkey skyrocketed, as did Twitter use in Turkey itself, as even officials of the ruling party continued tweeting. For more answers about what the meaning of this very leaky firewall is, I pinged Pembecioğlu, who is not just the founder and executive editor of Bigumigu but also a key Gezi activist, to interview him solely through Twitter DM. Here’s our conversation, lightly abridged.
[Top image: a map of Twitter usage from TweetPing shortly after Turkey’s ban was enacted. Note the massive Twitter usage in Istanbul (and even some in Ankara)]