A Twitter user has revealed that many accounts sharing posts of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s communications director Fahrettin Altun along with comments supporting his views on the ongoing Boğaziçi protests were fake profiles, local media reported on Friday.
“While going through tweets that quoted Fahrettin Altun’s funny propaganda video, I saw many similar posts with comments [supporting Altun’s views] shared by women who were secular looking. I suspected that it might be an attempt at perception management. I did some digging and found that I was right,” a user named farkobVEVO explained on Twitter.
Altun on Thursday shared a video on Twitter in which he made a statement in English, accusing protestors of links to terrorist groups in an attempt to justify Erdoğan’s appointment of Melih Bulu, a long-time member of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), as rector of Boğaziçi, a move criticized by many for undercutting academic freedom and democracy.
“What’s happening at Boğaziçi? We will do what it takes to protect our youth and universities from radicalization, terrorism, vandalism,” Altun said in the tweet where he shared the video.
User farkobVEVO late on Thursday exposed five different posts he alleged were shared by fake accounts that were designed to support the views of Erdoğan’s aide, with some of the profile photos copied from the users of the business platform www.buyernetwork.net.
“Well said. We all know that the protests aren’t really about the rector and that they are trying to create chaos in our country. Those who don’t [know] listen to Mr. Altun,” tweeted one of the users alleged to be fake by farkobVEVO.
“If you really count on your statement, which could never affect world public opinion due to involving clichés intrinsic to autocratic regimes, why are you in a rush to manipulate public opinion [through fake accounts]?” farkobVEVO asked.
The real owners of the profile photos used in the fake accounts will file criminal complaints, Turkish media reports said.
In June 2020 Twitter announced the suspension of more than 7,000 state-linked accounts from Turkey, calling them part of a government propaganda tool.
“The company’s allegations that those accounts were ‘fake’ profiles designed to support the president and that they were single-handedly managed by a central authority are untrue,” Altun then argued, adding that documents Twitter cited to support its decision were “illogical, biased and politically motivated.”
The demonstrations against Bulu, which spread to other universities before subsiding after the deployment of a heavy Turkish police presence around campuses and on the streets, also received the support of academics and organizations from around the world.