Turkish social media users have taken their concerns about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's health to Twitter. But when the hashtag #ölmüş, a Turkish word for “is said to be dead” started trending on November 3, it only took a few hours for the General Directorate of Security to take action  against at least 30 people for speculating about the president's health. In addition , the president's lawyer Hüseyin Aydın filed a criminal complaint against Twitter users for using the hashtags #RecepTayyipErdoğan and #ölmüş, alleging that they insulted the president. “It has become necessary to detect the users who made the posts and to demand a public action by conducting an investigation against the perpetrators,” said Aydın according  to reporting by the online news platform Diken.
According to Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code , it is illegal to insult the president. The accused can face up to four years  behind bars. Since being elected in 2014, Freedom House reports  that some “100,000 people have been accused of defaming the president” and breaking Article 299 of the Penal Code, a provision rarely used before, according to a 2018 report  by Human Rights Watch. Students , artists , journalists , lawyers , and average citizens have been prosecuted or faced trial . According to the Ministry of Justice, General Directorate of Criminal Records and Statistics, 36,000 people were investigated for allegedly insulting the president in 2019  and 31,297 in 2020 . In comparison, only four people  were investigated under the article in 2010.
Last month, Europe's top human rights court, the European Court of Human Rights, ruled  that the criminal proceedings instituted under Article 299 are in violation of Article 10 on freedom of expression  of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Speculations over President Erdoğan's health have increased  recently due to his frequent absences from the public eye. On November 3, the president did not attend the ceremony to mark his Justice and Development Party's 19th year in power. On November 1, he canceled his visit to Glasgow for COP26 , the international climate change conference, which has drawn world leaders from nearly every nation on earth — reportedly over a disagreement  about security protocols. President Erdoğan was scheduled to deliver an address on Monday and Tuesday, laying out Turkey's “plans to meet emission reduction goals it has agreed to under the Paris climate agreement.” Instead, the Turkish Minister of Environment, Urbanisation, and Climate Change Murat Kurum represented  the nation.
1⃣ Cumhurbaşkanımız Sayın @RTErdogan ‘ın 2053 yılı için ortaya koyduğu net sıfır emisyon ve yeşil kalkınma hedefimiz doğrultusunda iklim değişikliğiyle mücadelemizdeki kararlılığımızla, BM İklim Değişikliği #COP26  toplantıları için Glasgow'dayız. pic.twitter.com/tyHWK58PJv 
— Murat KURUM (@murat_kurum) November 1, 2021 
We are in Glasgow for the UN Climate Change #COP26 meetings, with our determination to tackle climate change in line with our clear zero emissions and green growth goals set by our President for 2053.
In response to tweets and speculations over the president's health, his aides shared videos such as the one below, showing the president out and about.
Dosta güven, düşmana korku… pic.twitter.com/ljoR6UEAuI 
— Fahrettin Altun (@fahrettinaltun) November 3, 2021 
Trust for friends, fear for enemies.
Last month, a video of President Erdoğan playing basketball to tamp down rumors of his poor health was shared on the president's Twitter account.
Sağlık için spor yapmak çok çok önemli. Ben de haftada üç gün spor yapmaya gayret ediyorum. Harekette bereket vardır. ? pic.twitter.com/7sDmQV7MSp 
— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) October 3, 2021 
It is very important to do sports for better health. I too try to do sports three times a week. There is blessing in movement.
On November 3, the General Directorate of Security released a statement  saying that the Department for Combating Cybercrime and its affiliated provincial units would carry out 24/7 virtual patrols to find those who speak ill of the president or his health.
Within the scope of the virtual patrol activities, a hashtags #ölmüş referring to the our President Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was discovered. Evaluating the said hashtag, 30 individuals were identified who have shared offensive, and manipulative content insulting the honor and the prestige of our President Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Necessary legal action has been initiated against them.
#Turkey  General Directorate of Security announces that legal action has been launched against 30 individuals who used the #Twitter  hashtag #ölmüş  [dead] regarding President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and allegedly spread disinforming and manipulating content? pic.twitter.com/Snw7Pq89Io 
— MLSA (@mlsaturkey) November 3, 2021 
According to Bianet , “while the hashtag made no reference as to who was ‘dead,’ almost all messages were implicitly or explicitly about the President.” In July, a video  where the president appeared to fall asleep during a video address to the ruling AKP party members vent viral.
In its October judgment , the European Court of Human Rights said, “that affording increased protection by means of a special law on insult would not, as a rule, be in keeping with the spirit of the Convention, and that a State's interest in protecting the reputation of its head of State could not serve as justification for affording the head of State privileged status or special protection vis-à-vis the right to convey information and opinions concerning him.” As a result, the Court recommended that Turkey changes its laws and provisions to align with Article 10 of the Convention.
The likelihood of Turkey complying with the recommendation is slim. Days after the European Court's decision, Turkish lawyer Sedat Ata was handed  11 months and 20 days in prison for “insulting” the president based on a video Ata shared on social media in 2014. The European Commission also raised concerns in a country report  that Turkey's judiciary mechanisms did not match international and European standards.
In 2014, Emma Woollacott  wrote a piece for Forbes about how then-Prime Minister Erdoğan ordering a Twitter block was a prime example of the Streisand Effect . At the time, the decision to block Twitter was triggered by a series of audio recordings  of Erdoğan instructing his son Bilal how to hide large sums of cash. Woolacott argued that the decision to block Twitter “only brought more attention to the corruption allegations,” namely the Streisand Effect. Fast forward to 2021, it looks as though President Erdoğan learned little from that experience.