Deepfakes, Cheapfakes and Twitter Censoring Türkiye’s March Election | WIRED
in the evening In Türkiye’s most important election in two decades, Can Semercioğlu went to bed early. For the past seven years, Semercioğlu has worked for teyitThe largest independent fact-checking group in Turkey, but that Sunday, May 14, was surprisingly one of the quietest nights he remembers at the institution.
Before voting, Opinion poll has suggested that incumbent president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is losing support due to devastation earthquake in southeastern Türkiye has killed nearly 60,000 people and the economy is struggling. However, he still won just under 50 percent of the vote. His main opponent, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, head of the Millet Alliance group of opposition parties, received around 45%, meaning the two will face off in the second round scheduled for May 28.
“That night we didn’t have much to do because everyone was talking about the results,” said Semercioğlu. “The opposition supporters are sad, the Erdoğan supporters are happy, and that’s what people mainly discuss on social media.”
It was a rare moment of respite. The days before the vote and then, as the vote drew near, was tense at Teyit, whose name means confirm or verify. The morning after the election, reports of stolen votes, missing ballots, and other inconsistencies — most of which were proven false or exaggerated — flooded social media. Semercioğlu says his colleagues’ working hours have doubled since early March, when Erdoğan announced the election date. This election cycle has been marred by a flurry of misinformation and misinformation on social media, made more difficult by a media environment that, after years of pressure from the government, has accused forced systematic favoritism against the sitting president. That has intensified as the Erdoğan government struggles to stay in power.
“We have been working 24/7 for a very long time. Misinformation about the background and statements of politicians is common in these elections. We frequently encounter uncontextual statements, misrepresentations, manipulations, and cheap thing,” said Semercioğlu. But this is not a surprise. And, he said. “We are seeing a similar flow in the second round.”
The work of fact-checkers has been complicated by the willingness of candidates—from the government and the opposition—to use manipulated material in their campaigns. On May 1, a small Islamic news outlet, Yeni Akit, published a purportedly edited video showing the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)—an organization considered by both Turkey and the United States is a terrorist group — supporting Kılıçdaroğlu. On May 7, the same video was shown during one of Erdoğan’s election rallies.
“To my surprise, Erdoğan showed an edited video showing Millet Coalition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu alongside PKK fighters at rallies. It was clearly a manipulated video, but it went viral and was accepted by the public,” said Semercioğlu, adding that although it exposed by Teyt“it’s pretty effective.”
The video went viral and entered search results for the opposition candidate.
“When internet users turned to Google to search for Kılıçdaroğlu that day, fake news was one of the top suggestions made by the algorithm,” said Emre Kizilkaya, researcher and managing editor of the journal. know. Magazine.com.tr, a non-profit newspaper website. Kizilkaya said his research pointed out that Google results are the main source of news for Turkish consumers, “who often lack strong loyalty to specific news brands”. During election preparation, he said Google results disproportionately popular presidential-friendly media.