The level of internet penetration in Turkey is around 69.6 per cent, placing it outside of the world’s 50 most connected nations. According to a 2014 Gallup poll, about 7 out of 10 adults say they have a working computer at home. In addition, the Kurdish population polled had the lowest percentage of Internet access at 58.2 per cent. Computer ownership and Internet access are lower in the Eastern and Southeastern Anatolian regions, where most of the Kurdish respondents live.
Despite the fact that Turkey has the fifth largest base of Internet users in Europe, strict internet laws make it very easy for websites to be blocked. In 2010, Reporters Without Borders placed Turkey on a list of “countries under surveillance” for its attitude to press freedom. Currently, Reporters Without Borders ranks Turkey 155 out of 180 in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index. In May 2011, it reported that Turkey’s internet regulator banned 138 internet keywords including the word “free,” and this ban continues in 2017. The word “pic” was among the words banned as well, because while it may be short for picture in English, it has a completely different meaning in Turkish. Turkey also blocks sites that condemn the founder of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
- Less than 70 per cent of Turkey has access to the Internet
- Turkish authorities have strict rules concerning what can and cannot be said online
- Turkey is one of the more socially engaged nations in the world
- Facebook is the most popular site in Turkey, but it’s been reported that it censors certain politically sensitive words
- Twitter is popular in Turkey, with the most popular pages belonging to prominent personalities
- YouTube has been banned at multiple points in recent history in the country, once in the run-up to local elections in 2014 and again in 2015 when images of prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz held hostage by far-left militants were displayed on the platform
- LinkedIn has the fastest-growing user base in Turkey, and penetration for LinkedIn is at 34 per cent, or 26.5 million users
In 2017, We Are Social reported that Turkish internet users spent an average of 1 hour and 39 minutes on social networks on average per day. This made Turkey the ninth most socially engaged nation in the world. It has been reported that Turkish citizens are turning to social media channels in place of traditional media, which some feel is under more government control.
In November of 2016, Turkey blocked access to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and WhatsApp following the ambassador’s assassination and the arrest of Kurdish-backed politicians. The services have since returned, but Turkish users report that the platforms often operate at slow speeds.
Facebook is the fourth most popular website in Turkey, with over 69.6 per cent of the population using the network, more than 10 million of whom are aged 18 to 24. Turkey is the ninth biggest market in the world for Facebook.
The most popular pages as of November 2017 are: football club Galatasaray with over 13 million likes on Facebook, followed by Fenerbahce, a sports club covering multiple sports (with 9.7 million likes) and Turkish president Tayyip Erdoğan, who has 8.9 million likes.
In February 2012, it was first reported that Facebook had a list of rules for Turkish content. Among other material, Facebook banned any verbal or visual attacks on Atatürk, as well as images of Turkish flag burning and maps of Turkey. In addition, any content supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or its founder Abdullah “Apo” Ocalan could result in a blocked account. Following a terrorist bombing in June of 2016 in the Istanbul Airport, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were blocked after videos of the attacks were shared across the platforms.
Twitter is the 20th most popular website in Turkey, with around 9.6 million users. As of November 2017, the most popular accounts all belong to popular personalities. Turkish stand-up comedian Cem Yilmaz has a Twitter following of around 13.4 million, while President Erdoğan has 11.4 million Twitter followers. Former president Abdullah Gül has around 8.7 million followers.
Twitter has also been the site of several controversies in recent years. In June of 2012, Turkish classical jazz pianist Fazil Say was charged with insulting Islamic values on Twitter. In September 2012, a Turkish couple used Twitter to get married. They exchanged vows by mentioning each other, and following the instructions of the mayor officiating the service.
YouTube is the second most popular website in Turkey. A 2017 report from We Are Social indicated that out of all social media platforms, YouTube had the highest number of active users. According to the same report, 55 per cent of the Turkish population watched YouTube videos every day, and 79 per cent watched YouTube videos at least once a week.
The three most popular YouTube channels as of November 2017 belong to: netd müzik, a music streaming and broadcasting company (16,557,884,166 video views and 7,387,543 subscribers); Turkish television channel KanalD (3,179,912,155 video views and 1,882,670 subscribers); and Turkish music streaming company Poll Production (2,439,568,933 video views and 1,315,173 subscribers).
Starting in 2008, YouTube was banned for 30 months (after users posted videos Turkey deemed insulting to the republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk). In October 2012, YouTube agreed to operate in under a Turkish domain name for the Turkish market. This gave the Turkish authorities more control over the service in their country. YouTube described this as launching a Turkish language version.
In 2016, YouTube – in addition to Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter – was blocked after the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey by an off-duty police officer. This pattern of blocking access to social media during escalated situations, such as terror attacks, is a common form of censorship in Turkey designed to suppress media coverage of political acts as well as the spreading of rumors. Since the block in November of 2016, services have been restored, but users often report slow-downs on the sites.
Turkey was one of the first nations to take to Google Plus, with more than 372,000 signing up within the first three weeks of launch. However, very few of these users are currently active on the platform today. As of 2016, about 60 per cent of Turkey has a Google Plus account, but only 21 per cent engage or actively contribute on the platform.
- Turkish mobile brand Turkcell is one of the most popular brands on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube
- The most popular social pages either belong to domestic brands or localised global brands
- Some brands like Turkcell and Volkswagen are starting to use social media to run campaigns
The three most popular brands on Facebook as of November 2017 in Turkey are: Muslim clothing line Sefamerve (4,505,859 fans); fashion designer KAYRA (4,280,883 fans); and the local page for the car manufacturer Volkswagen (3,968,411 fans).
Volkswagen is one of the brands that has used Facebook as a platform for a successful social media campaign. The brand used a flip book of 200 photos to create an interactive moving banner, which allowed people to “drive” the VW Amarok via down a street depicted on a banner on the page. The car also drove past a large billboard with a “Like” sign on it, allowing participants to become fans of the page.
The three most followed brands on Twitter as of November 2017 are all Turkish brands: Turkish Airlines (1,669,679 followers); the Turkish-language page for Turkish Airlines Türk Hava Yolları (1,319,945 followers); and Turkish property law firm Bay Hazar (1,038,112 followers).
In 2012, Turkish phone company Turkcell launched a campaign using Twitter using an interactive game. A picture of a prize covered with post-it notes appeared on a website, and each time someone read one of the notes, and tweeted them out with the hashtag #turkcelltweet, that note was removed. The more messages were tweeted, the more the prize was uncovered. The campaign generated more than 55,000 retweets over seven days.
The most viewed brand channels in Turkey on YouTube are currently all either Turkish brands, or local versions of international brands. Turkish Airlines channel is the most viewed branded channel with 517,611,150 video views and 190,108 subscribers, as is ice-cream brand Cornetto Türkiye with 265,108,735 video views and 170,019 subscribers. Mobile operator Turkcell is also popular with over 238,576,280 video views and 203,901 subscribers.
Language and Culture
- The country is divided between Turkish and Kurdish people, with the vast majority Turkish
- Turkish is the official language
- English is the most dominant second language
- Sport features in the constitution and is very popular in the country
- Turkey is the only secular Islamic nation in the world
- Elders and members of the opposite gender are addressed formally unless a close relation or friend
- All major public holidays centre around the founder of the republic (Atatürk)
- There is increasing tension between those who feel that the secular traditions are being threatened and the government
In 2017 it was estimated that the Turkish population comprised 70 to 75 per cent Turkish and 19 per cent Kurdish people. Other minorities made up 7 to 12 per cent of the population. Turkish is the official language; Kurdish is popular, with other minority languages also being spoken. English is the most widely used second language. Turkish is spoken by approximately 75 million people, and it’s the 21st most-used language in the world.
Sports are very popular in Turkey. One comScore report, conducted in February 2012, revealed that Turkey had the highest reach for sports sites in Europe (70.7 per cent). Globally, Turkey was second only to the United States, which had a reach of 70.9 per cent. Sports are so popular in Turkey that it’s even featured in the Constitution; article 59 states:
“The State takes measures to develop the physical and mental health of Turkish citizens of all ages and encourages the spread of sports among the masses. The State shall protect successful athletes.”
Older generations and people of the opposite gender are addressed formally unless they happen to be close friends or relations, with older men being addressed with the title “Bey” and women with the title “Hanim.”
Public holidays include: National Sovereignty and Children’s Day on 23rd April; Ataturk Commemoration and Youth Sports Day on 19th May; Victory Day on 30th August (commemorating the victory of the Battle of Dumlupinar in 1922); and Republic Day (divided over the 28th and 29th of October).
The 19th May celebrations used to involve thousands of students performing in stadium ceremonies around the country, but this was changed in 2012 so that the majority of Turkish children took part in ceremonies at school instead (one reason being that it had started to impact children’s education).
The Turkish government refused to permit campaign groups to hold their own rally in Ankara to celebrate Republic Day 2012, as campaigners had started using the day to demand change, and protest against the government for what they viewed as a movement away from secular traditions. The official rally went ahead, and when the attendees tried to march to Atatürk’s Mausoleum they were attacked by water cannons and tear gas.