The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and social media platforms have a love-hate relationship. The AKP loves using social media tools to spread its own narrative and propaganda, but they are highly disturbed that opposition voices can be so loud on the very same platforms.

Twitter removed more than 7,000 Turkish accounts last week, claiming the accounts were coordinated and pushing government propaganda. The Turkish government slammed this move by Twitter.

Before Twitter’s purge, Turkish authorities had come with another move, claiming to bring higher ethical standards to the social platform. 

The AKP’s governing partner, the MHP, came up with a suggestion: they said people should be registered with their ID numbers and real identities on social platforms and that this should be mandated by law.

The AKP wasn’t quite on board with that yet, but AKP leaders had another idea. Mahir Ünal, AKP deputy chair and Head of Publicity and Media, asked those who promised to abide by ethical rules in social media to place a green dot on their profile. He tweeted that people with green dots would show that they would abide by ethical rules, and a little Turkish flag emoji would be added next to the green dots to show that they are “national” users. 

Twitter exploded with green-dotted, Turkish-flagged accounts. Onur Mat from Genel İzleyici analyzed the accounts

He found out that, after Mahir Ünal declared the green dot policy, a significant amount of new accounts were started that bore the green dot and the Turkish flag. According to Mat’s research, the most mentioned expressions in those accounts’ profiles were “AK Party” followed by “Fatherland,” “Atatürk,” “Allah,” “Turkey,” and “Erdoğan.”

“In the profile definitions in the sampling, AK Party is referred [to] 15 times more than CHP and 25 times more than IYI Party. MHP slogans are commonly seen in the profiles (such as “state or rally of the raven”), however MHP itself is not mentioned in the profiles.”

The green dot movement, however, did not have a very good start. Only a few days after Ünal’s announcement, a bunch of green dot profiles were spotted making group rape plans about critical journalists and CHP’s Istanbul chair Canan Kaftancıoğlu. Those users were mentioning each other and writing about how, in the case of another coup attempt like the one in July 2016, that they would use coup attempt as an excuse to rape the women they hate. Their discussion caused a public backlash. 

Not long after, another green dot account was spotted making sexist remarks and sexually aggressive attacks toward the wife of the jailed HDP politician Selahattin Demirtaş, Başak Demirtaş. Minister of Justice Abdülhamit Gül condemned the tweet. AKP deputy chair Mahir Ünal stated that a whole movement and the AKP can not be accused just because of the bad behavior of some. Some pro-government journalists claimed those accounts actually belonged to either FETÖ or PKK. Their real aim was to make the government look bad. 

There are two possibilities about the green dot movement: on one hand, it could have been a very bad strategy that was doomed to fail. In effect, it gave AKP supporters a stamp on Twitter, thus making the hateful language used by such accounts the AKP’s responsibility. 

On the other hand, there could have been an even greater strategy behind it. The AKP can now claim that their good-willed strategy to bring higher ethical standards to Twitter did not work — thus putting a control mechanism on these platforms would be for the higher good.

The AKP might use the claim that hateful language and harassment on social media has gotten out of hand. Considering that women have been under attack the most, especially women considered to be the voices of the opposition, it’s possible that the opposition could also be pushed to agree to a control mechanism for social media platforms.

One thing Turkish politics has taught me is to never say never, and that anything is possible.