Deepfakes, Cheapfakes, and Twitter Censorship Mar Turkey’s Elections

1 year ago 58

On the evening of Turkey’s most significant elections of the past two decades, Can Semercioğlu went to bed early. For the past seven years, Semercioğlu has worked for Teyit, the largest independent fact-checking group in Turkey, but that Sunday, May 14, was surprisingly one of the quietest nights he remembers at the organization.

Before the vote, opinion polls had suggested that incumbent president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was losing support due to devastating earthquakes in southeastern Turkey that killed nearly 60,000 people and a struggling economy. However, he still managed to secure just under 50 percent of the vote. His main opponent, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who heads the Millet Alliance group of opposition parties, received around 45 percent, meaning the two will face off in a second round scheduled for May 28.

“That night we didn’t have much work to do because people were talking about the results,” Semercioğlu says. “Opposition supporters were sad, Erdoğan supporters were happy, and that was what everybody was mostly discussing on social media.”

It was a rare moment of respite. The days leading up to the vote and afterward, as the runoff approaches, have been intense at Teyit, whose name translates into confirmation or verification. The morning after the election, reports of stolen votes, missing ballots, and other inconsistencies—most of which proved to be false or exaggerated—flooded social media. Semercioğlu says his colleagues’ working hours have doubled since early March, when Erdoğan announced the date for the election. This election cycle has been marred by a torrent of misinformation and disinformation on social media, made more difficult by a media environment that, after years of pres...

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