WhatsApp gets dumped by Turkey’s Erdogan on mounting privacy concerns
The media office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is quitting WhatsApp Inc., joining a global flight from the popular messaging app over new usage terms that have sparked privacy concerns.
The presidency will move its WhatsApp groups to encrypted messaging app BiP, a unit of Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetler AS, on Jan. 11, it said in a message Saturday to the groups. The switch coincides with Erdogan’s broader campaign against social-media platforms that activists say is meant to stifle dissent.
Changes to WhatsApp’s terms and services effective Feb. 8 will allow it to share data with parent company Facebook Inc. Users must agree to the new terms or lose access to their accounts at WhatsApp.
The world’s richest man, technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, has issued a call to switch to rival app Signal, leading to a surge in new users of its service.
Turkcell reported a similar pattern in Turkey, with about 1 million new users joining BiP Messenger in the past 24 hours, according to a company statement on Sunday. The application has been downloaded more than 53 million times since it was launched in 2013, Turkcell said.
Erdogan’s office, in its statement, urged Turks to switch to BiP. Turkey Wealth Fund took a majority stake in Turkcell, the country’s biggest mobile phone operator, in 2020.
Erdogan’s jettisoning of WhatsApp is his latest move against social-media giants, which Turkey recently fined for not appointing local representatives as required by a new law. Activists who accuse him of increasingly authoritarian ways say the required appointments are part of a broader process that will throttle the platforms to the point of being unusable in Turkey.
Turkish authorities regularly arrest social-media users on charges including insulting Erdogan, and banned Wikipedia for three years until a court ruled a year ago that the restriction violated free speech. Access to Twitter Inc. has been hampered.
Chinese-owned TikTok, which was among the companies including Facebook that were fined, agreed last week to appoint a local representative.