Meet the Five Dictators and Demagogues Who Absolutely Hate Social Media

Jun 13, 2013 at 3:18 PM ET

Authoritarian leaders the world over are shaking in their pants from a looming danger. It’s not nuclear stockpiles, nor even tanks or a zombie apocalypse. They have it out for people just like you: social media users.

Demagogues are obsessed with appearances. Even they need a facade of public support to avoid being overthrown. Social media guru Clay Shirky told Vocativ that what threatens these regimes are “synchronized public actions, which come from synchronized public awareness.” That’s why they spend big bucks trying to control the media; but social media is much more unpredictable.  Nobody expected the Twitter Revolution!

Here at Vocativ, we love lists.  So here are five authoritarian douchebags who are worried about the dangers of social media:


Recep Tayyip Erdoğan—Turkey

Turkey's PM Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara

The Turkish Prime Minister recently earned the ire of every teenage girl following Amanda Bynes by calling social media — and Twitter specifically — a menace to society. But he has an official and very popular Twitter account himself. Talk about awkward.

Turkish government officials have called Twitter a danger to democracy that they wish to regulate and control. People are even getting arrested over tweets with anti-government opinions. Turks thought they lived in free country. Rookie mistake.

So what if Erdoğan had police use tear gas and water cannons against protesters in Taksim Square? We still can’t call him a dictator; after all he was democratically elected. Let’s just call him an asshole instead.


Shaikh Abdul Lateef Al Shaikh—Saudi Arabia:


A year and a half ago, Shaikh was appointed the head of Saudi Arabia’s religious morality police. While some call the use of the internet and social networks soul-sucking endeavors, Shaikh literally believes those words. He says that those using Twitter as their guide have, “lost their lives and afterlife.

Perhaps these concerns of the morality police chief are not altogether unfounded. Web forums have recently blown up with chatter about a Twitter account, the owner of which claims to be a jinn (spirit) living in Saudi Arabia. His claims of being the first jinn to use Twitter have landed him over 165,000 followers. Could his followers be putting themselves at risk of soul theft? Fear not, the Saudi morality police are likely already on the case.


Alexander Lukashenko—Belarus


Europe’s last dictator has felt tormented by social media users for years now. Ever the benevolent leader, he cares deeply about the education of youth. That’s why in 2011, he forbade access to “destructive” social media platforms on school and university networks: they can so easily corrupt fragile young minds.

To fight dissidents on social networks, he uses his Operational Analytic Center — a creepy combination of the NSA and FCC. Is he just taking things too personally? A group on the Russian-language social network Vkontakte titled, “We’re tired of Lukashenko” recently posted a picture with a Photoshopped Lukashenko tombstone in a cemetery.


Tread carefully—you evil social media junkies—or you’ll be tweeting from the penitentiary.


Dmitry Rogozin—Russia


As Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Rogozin cares deeply about national security. Last week, he commented on the latest and greatest threat to Russia, saying “A powerful manipulation of public opinion is being carried through – all sorts of ‘likes’ and other buttons that you press…” Surely, the honorable Russian military would never stoop so low as to use hackers for political ends. Poor guy, he’s on the front lines trying to safeguard his people, and all over the Russian twittersphere, they just mock him.

“So we’re like… cyber soldiers!”

Protect yourselves people… the cyber soldiers are coming for your likes!


Honorable Mention: Lu Wei—China


So, to his credit, Lu Wei doesn’t actually hate social media users. He just wants to use social networks against them. The head of the Chinese Publicity Ministry — often translated as the Propaganda Ministry — plans to hire two million individuals to be employed by the Communist party to constantly put a positive spin on socioeconomic issues where the government is failing the population. Predictably, the propaganda chief is very much set on spreading propaganda.

The number of accounts on Weibo — China’s version of Twitter — held by government employees increased by 250% between 2011 and 2012. Rather than try to shut you down, the next generation of authoritarian douchebags will try to drown you out.