Turkish prosecutors have detained 138 social media users to date due to “provocative” posts on social media about powerful earthquakes that hit the country’s south on February 6, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing a statement from the Security Directorate General made on Thursday.
The directorate said Turkish courts have ruled for the arrest of 27 of the detainees for sharing “provocative” posts about the earthquakes in order to “create fear and panic in the society.”
According to the statement, 559 social media users have been investigated and 81 websites have been blocked for “fraudulent” activities.
A 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck near the Turkish city of Gaziantep – home to around 2 million people and on the border with Syria – as people were sleeping on February 6 was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that jolted the region in the middle of search and rescue efforts the same day.
Only one day after the powerful earthquakes, the Turkish government introduced a smartphone application allowing users to report people who are believed to have produced or disseminated fake news or disinformation online as the country grapples with the repercussions of the powerful earthquakes.
“You can download our app to your phone and report the news produced and spread about the earthquake disaster that you think is suspicious/fake,” Turkey’s Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said.
The government is mainly accused of failing to mobilize enough people for search and rescue efforts and a lack of coordination among the teams, which resulted in civilians in some regions trying to pull their loved ones from under the rubble themselves and finding them frozen to death although they sustained no critical injuries in the collapse.
Many social media users also complained about the lack of basic necessities, such as water, blankets and tents as well as medical supplies.