dokuz8NEWS twitter account temporarily locked upon complaint from "Messiah"

dokuz8NEWS' English language account was locked down temporarily due to a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) request concerning a news piece that was published in 2019 regarding the self-proc...

Media Freedom 22.04.2020 - 19:45 22.04.2020 - 19:45

dokuz8NEWS' English language account was locked down temporarily due to a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) request concerning a news piece that was published in 2019 regarding the self-proclaimed "messiah" İskender Evrenesoğlu's websites getting blocked upon request from Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs.

İskender Erol Evrenesoğlu as a religious figure who founded the Mihr Sect used to work as a deputy undersecretary at the State Planning Agency as a financial expert until during 1970s and 1980s. Publishing multiple books on financial structures, Evrenseloğlu presented himself as a promising conservative-financial expert at the State Planning Agency. Prior to his death in the US, Evrensoğlu had filed criminal complaint against his followers that revealed a phone call with him, accusing him of sexual assault to an 18 year old in Maryland; the court case continues with his son Oktay Evrenesoğlu demanding reparations for "spiritual damages". One of the complaints filed by his lawyers to Twitter, targeted a news piece published on dokuz8NEWS.

DECLARING HIMSELF AS THE MESSIAH

Evrenseloğlu declared himself as the "messiah" although underlying that "this would not mean he is a prophet". He had suggested that he was specially charged by God to inform the "Turkish Race" regarding specifics of faith. In late 1990s, Evrenesoğlu relocated to the United States and declared himself as "chosen by God".

WEBSITES BLOCKED FOR ACCESS

Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs did not issue an imam for Evrenesoğlu's funeral in November 2019 in the city of Bursa where his body was taken to after losing his life in the US. The directorate previously had filed an application to the Information and Communication Technologies Authority to block access to five websites that published speeches, articles and videos of self-proclaimed messiah.

MEDIA COVERAGE

Upon his death, Evrenesoğlu received media coverage across the spectrum as an eccentric figure while he is most remembered for what he claims to be his "live-interaction" with the God.The access-blocking news was also reflected on dokuz8NEWS on January 29, 2019. However this piece of news was reported to Twitter for copyright violation due to use of an image of Evrenesoğlu.[embed]https://twitter.com/dokuz8news/status/1090348126458781696[/embed]

DOKUZ8NEWS ACCOUNT LOCKED

A DMCA request was received on dokuz8NEWS' communications address stating that "the material has been removed from your account in response to the DMCA takedown notice" as the image used in the news coverage in media originally appeared on the Mihr Sect's website as a registered image.Underneath the website a disclaimer is included stating that "documents on this website can be used with link-references".

SMALL NEWSROOMS' TROUBLES ON TWITTER

While this is not the first time that dokuz8NEWS has been facing trouble regarding DMCA takedown notices which serve as a mechanism of blocking access to information in some cases, this is a more general problem for many small newsrooms.Previously in June 2019 both dokuz8NEWS and İleri Haber Twitter accounts were suspended prior to repeat Istanbul Elections when performance of these newsrooms would be immensely critical for Turkish and international news-readers.While a short term temporary lock-down does not constitute a major problem for small news organizations that operate on social-first principle, the fact that copyright claims can be used for silencing media remain effective and heavily damage already fragile media freedom in countries like Turkey.

SOCIAL MEDIA'S HANDLING OF INDEPENDENT MEDIA DISCUSSED AT IGF

During the Internet Governance Forum 2019 that was held in Germany's capital Berlin in November 2019, dokuz8NEWS' Executive Manager Gürkan Özturan had presented his report chapter as part of Global Information Society Watch 2019, talking about the troubled understanding of copyright applications and how it impacts media freedom in Turkey through takedown-requests filed to social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.Even though there has been found no permanent solution to the social media companies' treatment of small newsrooms that serve as a vital source of information in countries that have a troubled media freedom understanding, the discussions over 'uses of copyright for silencing the media' continue and demands from social media giants by newsrooms and news readers grow.

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