‘Standing Man’ Meme Goes Viral as Turkish Government Threatens Social Media Crackdown

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As the huge anti-government protests have taken over Turkey for a third week, protesters are finding other ways to express their frustrations after police cracked down on their gatherings. The newest meme to come out of the Turkey protests is the Standing Man, wherein protesters stand for long periods of time in silence.

Erdem Gunduz, the inspiration behind the Standing Man meme, explained why he stood in silence at Taksim Square for more than eight hours Monday to Hurriyet TV: “I am just an ordinary citizen of this country. We want our voices to be heard.”

However, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the main target of anti-government protests, would like to see none of these memes from going viral. Doubling-down on his comments that Twitter is a “scourge” and that social media is a “menace to society,” USA Today reported he and his government are creating a bill that would legislate how Turks use social media and give more powers to police in terms of future protests.

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Turkey’s Interior Minister Muammer Guler explained to Hurriyet Daily News about the government’s reasoning to restrict social media: “We have a study on those who provoke the public via manipulations with false news and lead them to actions that would threaten the security of life and property by using Twitter, Facebook or other tools of social media. Still, we think that the issue needs a separate regulation.”

What started out as a protest in late May against the government’s plans to redevelop Istanbul’s Taksim Square into malls and museums has grown into a national movement against the conservative policies of Erdogan and his AK Party. The protests have since turned violent as police started cracking down on demonstrators, killing five and injuring thousands.

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