Social media was crucial in mobilising the public during the 2016 attempted coup in Turkey. News outlets didn’t have much to report in the chaos, and some said that they couldn't access YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook at first.
But within a couple hours, Twitter became a crucial source of information.
CNN feels as outdated as a newspaper right now. Twitter has live coverage of a coup attempt in Turkey and the networks are still in France.
— Binyamin Appelbaum (@BCAppelbaum) July 15, 2016
According to the Hurriyet newspaper, the number of tweets sent between 12:00 am and 4:00 am reached a record of 495,000. It meant a 35-fold increase in tweets in Turkey when compared to an average day.
köprüde yolu askerler kapattılar ter yöne yol vererek herkesi geri çeviriyorlar pic.twitter.com/fq9nanpCcP
— Mehmet Bahadır Yavuz (@Bahad1rYavuz) July 15, 2016
"They [soldiers] blocked the road, they’re sending everyone back."
The public understood that a coup attempt was underway when army soldiers raided public broadcaster TRT and forced a news presenter to read out a statement.
TRT'de resmen darbe bildirisi. Şaka değil, gerçek! pic.twitter.com/IyFjy3E62V
— Demirhan Kadıoğlu (@DemirHan19) July 15, 2016
"Literally a coup statement on TRT. No joke, real!"
As the coup plotters declared a de facto curfew with the statement, people began tweeting with the hashtags #NoCoupInTurkey and #darbeyehayir, which meant “no to the coup.”
Activists from different political parties and groups began to mobilise on social media to march toward and cluster around areas with high concentrations of rogue soldiers.
— Charles Shopsin (@shopsinc) July 15, 2016
According to signal data obtained by Foreign Affairs, it was roughly 10:00 pm when the resistance first began around Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Istanbul residence in the Kisikli neighbourhood.
torununa "ben elimde kumanda, pijamalarımla evden izledim" mi diyeceksin?
— Abdulhamit Kırmızı (@hakirim) July 15, 2016
"Are you going to tell your grandchild “I watched everything at home with a tv remote, with my pyjamas on?”
Less than 20 minutes after the coup statement, Erdogan made a live appearance on CNN TURK via FaceTime, as the news anchor held an iPhone in front of the camera. Shortly after, he sent a tweet to urge people to take to the streets to stand against the coup attempt, which he implied to be plotted by the Gulenists in the army.
Milletimizi demokrasimize ve milli iradeye sahip çıkmak üzere meydanlara, havalimanlarına davet ediyorum.
— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RT_Erdogan) July 15, 2016
"I urge the Turkish people to take to the streets of our cities, and to convene at our public squares and our airports," he said.
Within hours, thousands more joined those already gathered around the checkpoints that had been blocked by soldiers.
Live Periscope videos showing the clashes between civilians and soldiers on the Bosphorus Bridge streamed on Twitter.
— abraham (@abrahamertan) July 15, 2016
"LIVE in Periscope: They’re shooting civilians in the bridge."
Some people reported that helicopters were firing at people gathered around the Presidential Complex in Ankara, the capital.
Allah belanızı versin şerefsiz köpekler (Külliye'nin orası) pic.twitter.com/s36za6I4CJ
— Elif Serra Yıldırım (@yldrmserra) July 15, 2016
"Goddamn you dishonorable dogs! [At the presidential palace]"
Meanwhile, “How to stop a tank?” became the most searched question on Google on the night of the coup attempt
Indeed, it worked. Some tanks were captured by civilians within hours of the president’s call.
Havaalanindaki tankı ele geçirdik çok şükür pic.twitter.com/eHZCBgz4XV
— Ayhan Akın (@AYHANAKIN3) July 16, 2016
"Thank God, we seized a tank at the airport"
Üsküdar da 15 tank ele alindi .polisi bekliyoruz... pic.twitter.com/qDBbs1KkDz
— KonsanTRasyoN (@mstayar) July 15, 2016
"15 tanks have been captured in Uskudar. Waiting for police…"
On hearing that Erdogan would be captured by army upon arrival in Istanbul, huge crowds flooded Ataturk Airport in solidarity with the president.
— Rami (@RamiAILoIah) July 15, 2016
Rumours circulated that the coup had failed when soldiers on the Bosphorus Bridge surrendered themselves to civilians and were later taken into custody by security forces.
— Mohamed I Abu Basha (@ElBobsh) July 16, 2016
boğaz köprüsü de tank üzerinde zafer naraları pic.twitter.com/uWs4aLAlNZ
— Abdulhamit Kırmızı (@hakirim) July 16, 2016
"Victory chants on tanks in Bosphorus Bridge"
But as people took a deep breath thinking that the coup was defeated, three more bombs were dropped near the Presidential Complex and Gendarmerie headquarters, shaking Ankara, the capital. Hours of the bloody clashes involving unarmed citizens had left more than 249 people dead and 2,000 injured.