Every day thousands of social media tribunals are established on Turkish social media outlets. Millions of people are looking for justice on social media courtrooms.
There are many reasons for this. First of all, if a hashtag becomes a trending topic and manages to stay there for a long time, it influences public opinion. Hashtags, which determine public opinion, are taken very seriously by all segments of society. Politicians keep a close watch on these hashtags. They consider public expectations and this can find an echo in real-life courts. In other words, social media courts lead to real courts.
This is of course not unique to Turkey. There are many hints at this in popular culture. Black Mirror Nosedive (Season 3, Episode 1) and The Orville, Majority Rule (Season 1 Episode 7) episodes are about dystopian realities. In these episodes, the social media status of a person determines his/her future.
The latest social media cases
What is remarkable for our country is that the situation, which TV series imagine as an extreme dystopia, is quite close to reality.
We have recently seen what social media could do about violence against women. University student Pınar Gültekin was brutally murdered by Cemil Metin Avcı. However, we have learned the name of Gültekin long before the news about the murder, through a social media campaign initiated by her friends who posted that she was missing. Unfortunately, the worst happened. #pınargültekin became one of the most shared hashtags of all time. Even her parents were saying that the government must put a stop to these murders before more hashtags with other female names come up. There was such an intense pressure by the public that all politicians, from the President to the Minister of Family and Social Policies, announced that they would follow the tribunal very closely.
Not the same for all cases
The court of social media was once again successful. Justice was guaranteed in this case. But our people are aware that in this country, defendants in cases that don’t gather as much attention can get away with murder. They can benefit from the good conduct amendment, and many do. Our people know that a murderer had googled how he could use the good conduct amendment before killing his wife last year.
This time the killer is unlikely to catch a break. This is good news. The social media court relieved us.
But when we woke up the next morning, a new hashtag appeared. #volkanuzuntutuklansın (#arrestvolkanuzun). Another despicable man had raped a dog, causing her death. While writing this article, about 200 thousand Tweets were posted with this hashtag. Our people were looking for justice on social media once more.
Justice by tweet count
However, looking at the top 10 Twitter Trend Topics for Turkey, Mert Çiller’s name was the tenth. He is the son of Tansu Çiller, Turkey’s first woman prime minister in 1993. He had beaten his wife Zeynep Çiller and people were looking for justice, this time for Zeynep. However, while writing this article, only 2500 tweets were posted. Zeynep Çiller’s agony was not among the main public concerns for this day.
When I was overwhelmed with all this, I came across an evaluation made by Ahmet Akın in two separate posts on Instagram. While everyone spoke of Pınar Gültekin, no one spoke about Fatma Altınmakas as this article was written. She was repeatedly raped by her husband’s brother and was later killed by her husband when he found out what happened. “Why did nobody share anything for Altınmakas?” Akın asked. Are we, as social media court judges and prosecutors, looking for justice for the people we count as one of us just by looking at their image? Why were social media courts not set up for a rural woman wearing a headscarf?
These are hard questions.
Playing justice on social media
As people, we only play justice on social media. We have to accept this first so that we decide what our social justice target is and strive for it.
We find it sufficient to look for justice on social media for the people in our own socio-economic class, who we think are politically close to us. We also like to support beautiful or handsome people. We show support to the more sensational stories as well because more people talk about them and rejoice when we get a result.
However, at least one woman is killed every day in Turkey. How many of these women have the power to initiate a social media tribunal? As we rejoice for the justice we find once a month, who knows what happens to all the other voiceless women out there.
Also, when we switch to our “justice warrior” mode, we go amok. We try to pass judgment even to popular writers, signers, actresses just because of something they said and even in some cases because of their silence.
So, should we stop seeking justice?
Of course, we should seek justice. I decided to continue this quest with two solid actions, and I would always like to listen to your suggestions.
First of all, I decided not to post only reactive social media posts against brutality. I will educate myself about the violence experienced by women by reading more on platforms such as http://kadincinayetlerinidurduracagiz meaning “we will stop murders of women”. I will share correct information and policy suggestions shared on these platforms with my followers more frequently so that I will contribute to a wider solution instead of fueling a momentary craze.
Secondly, I decided to produce content that would put pressure on more strategic issues, such as not getting out of the Istanbul Convention, encouraging the courts to operate more fairly.
I hope that in our country, we will see the days when people will not fear an unfair trial if an issue is not a trending topic.