Influence of the Internet on new Social Movements: The Case of Turkey
This work aims to assess the impact of the Internet on the social oppositional movements in terms of their processes of debate, policymaking, organisation and action. It is argued that almost all the positive and negative impacts of the Internet produce a counter-situation. The anti-militarist movement, the LGBTT movement and the opposition to urban transformation were selected as sample groups in Turkey that use the Internet effectively. As stated by the pro-strugglists, this study agrees that those with power and capital try to control the Internet, that large segments of society are excluded from the Internet and that the Internet is wrapped up in racist–sexist discourses of violence. However, this study reinforces the importance of the Internet as a tool to be used in different ways in the struggle of social movements. The Internet can help activists to communicate easily, immediately and cheaply. Furthermore, the easy archivization of this information fulfils an important function, which is particularly relevant in Turkey since groups are not skilled in documenting their history. The expeditiousness created by the Internet speeds up decision-making processes, which might result in a lack of necessary debate, leading to undesirable results. Moreover, due to its multi-centred structure with easily transformable centres, the Internet can result in a government lack of control, unlike in other communication tools. This enables the communication of oppositional movements outside the central monitoring of the state, thereby avoiding the intervention of opponent groups. However, the Internet can be observed and monitored in a way unparalleled in other communication tools. In the discussions carried out over the Internet, users can remain anonymous, articulating their opinions more freely, but anonymity might result in a slipperiness of identities and non-accountability for the expressed opinions. Political discussions not progressing through real people results in the inability to conduct real politics and the failure of discussions or actions. Individuals accessing the Internet have the opportunity to participate in discussions and actions in an unprecedented “equal” and “free” way. However, the limitations arising from the digital divide constitute a serious obstacle to all citizens’ access to these processes, and in this sense, the Internet maintains and even exacerbates the existing inequalities. There are good examples of initiatives discussing public issues and conveying opinions to local governments, which strengthen local democracy, but such Internet activism must parallel offline activism.