Turkey’s authoritarian slide takes aim at encryption

This month, Turkey’s parliament passed a legislative package that will give authorities the power to control, restrict and criminalize online speech. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself proposed what analysts are calling “the disinformation bill” or the “censorship law,” which amends 40 existing laws.

In the 2021 Reporters Without Borders media freedom index, Turkey was ranked 149th out of 180 countries and in 2021 the Committee to Protect Journalists designated Turkey the world’s sixth most prolific jailer of journalists.

Writing for Brookings Aslı Aydıntaşbaş says, “The government now wants to be regularly updated about how many users there are, who talks to who, and if necessary, what they talked about. In some instances, they can demand encryption data and restrict usage otherwise.”

Encryption is a technology that is incompatible with digital authoritarianism. It keeps communications private and secure, including from authorities who seek to clamp down on dissent. As Turkey slides farther away from democracy and into autocracy at an alarming rate, encryption is essential to keep everyday citizens, but especially journalists and activists, safe from real harms posed by the state.