Turkey says it's investigating 10,000 social network users

It's supposedly to fight terrorism, but may be an excuse to stifle free speech.

Reuters/Yagiz Karahan

Turkey has been cracking down on internet activity at a frenetic pace ever since an attempted military coup in the summer, and it's now clear that there are a lot of people caught in the dragnet. The country's interior ministry has revealed that officials are investigating about 10,000 social network users suspected of backing terrorism. About 3,710 people have been questioned in the past 6 months, authorities say, and 1,656 were arrested. The rest were let go, but 1,203 of them are still under watch.

There's one inescapable question, however: just how many of those internet socialites really support terrorism? Despite protests to the contrary, the Turkish government is notorious for blocking Facebook, Twitter and other internet services whenever there's a surge of dissent against President Erdogan, and that kind of knee-jerk response has only intensified since the coup. The country has closed down 150 news organizations in the period as well. While it's certainly possible that some of those 10,000 users are plotting senseless acts of violence, the terrorism charges may simply be a pretext for silencing online political opposition.