I’ve been living in southwest Turkey for the past two years. Yesterday afternoon, a bomb went off in a busy neighborhood in Istanbul. Apart from messaging a few friends who live in the area, my first reaction was to go to Twitter. Twitter is always, in my experience, the best place for real-time information. But Twitter was down.
Reported by NetBlocks, yesterday soon after the explosion, several social media platforms were restricted in Turkey – apparently in order to prevent the publication and circulation of images from the scene of the incident.
While I can understand not wanting images to be circulated, for obvious (morbidity) and less obvious (security) reasons, it made me think of the many times that (particularly in certain places around the world like India, Iran, Pakistan, parts of Africa, Ukraine, Turkey, etc) that I’ve read how the Internet was disrupted or restricted in moments of crisis or emergency, thereby limiting crucial access to support and assistance and limiting the freedom of the press.
By the way, I do not think there is a right or wrong answer here. Nothing is black and white. But as a privileged American, there are few (no?) times I have personally faced a forced limitation of Internet access by a controlling body (I have travelled to and spent time in many places with horrible Internet access but this is another issue altogether) and having been in the midst of this situation, and given everything happening with Twitter these days in general, it made me think.
I do not know exactly how a decentralized public town hall should look like and operate. So much needs to be thought about, especially when it comes to moderation. But my belief is stronger than ever that such a forum is so desperately needed – and I am proud to be a part of these efforts we are taking.