[Published here April 8, 2014]
ISTANBUL, Turkey — Spread around a tiny living room in an Istanbul flat are laptops, cell phones, projectors, and almost three dozen social media activists. This group, which spent all day monitoring Turkey’s contested local elections on March 30, re-assembled in a matter of hours after the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) declared its victory in the early morning of March 31. Their mission: to carry out a citizen-run investigation into election fraud.
Named after the 140-character limit on micro-blogging site Twitter, 140journos gained prominence after Istanbul’s Gezi Park protests last year. It has since grown to a network of over 300 citizen journalists, all volunteers, based throughout Turkey. The group uses Twitter, as well as Facebook and micro-video sites like Vine, to gather and verify local news. According to Ogulcan Ekiz, one of the group’s founding members, 140journos’ verification process has earned it the trust of much of Turkey’s youth, who see biases in traditional Turkish media.