Events unfold live on social media

People wave flags in Kizilay Square in Ankara on July 16 during a demonstration, in support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
People wave flags in Kizilay Square in Ankara on July 16 during a demonstration, in support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.PHOTO: AFP

SAN FRANCISCO • News of the attempted military coup in Turkey exploded on social media despite restricted access to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube during the first hours of the putsch.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an avowed enemy of social media who has frequently targeted Twitter and Facebook, addressed the country via a FaceTime video call that was broadcast on TV.

Posting on Twitter, he said: "I call our nation to the airports and the squares to take ownership of our democracy and our national will." He also retweeted posts from Prime Minister Binali Yildirim condemning the coup.

Mr Erdogan's critics were quick to note the irony - here he was, using a medium he has repeatedly denounced to save his own presidency.

At the same time, both supporters and opponents of the coup inundated social networks with commentary, images and live videos.

Vivid but sometimes confusing scenes from Turkey unfolded on screens across the world as videos showed explosions at the Turkish Parliament, helicopters firing on protesters, and opponents of the coup standing in front of tanks.

"It's almost 2am and mosques across Istanbul are relentlessly calling people to the streets to resist and protest the military coup," wrote Twitter user Ceylan Yeginsu.

Backers of the coup criticised Mr Erdogan's rule, using social media to urge government opponents to take to the streets.

A map of all Facebook Live videos showed dozens of live streams coming out of Turkey, including videos of hundreds of people gathered in the streets.

Twitter users shared images and videos of scenes in Istanbul and Ankara. In some videos, gunshots could be heard in the background.

During the initial phases of the uprising by a section of the military, it was near impossible for many users to access social media, except by using a "virtual private network" to bypass local Internet providers, said residents and monitoring groups.

Twitter said it suspected an "intentional slowing" of its traffic.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 17, 2016, with the headline 'Events unfold live on social media'. Print Edition | Subscribe