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#HelpTurkey being used to make Turkey look 'weak, incompetent'

Helicopters battle the forest fire broke out in Marmaris district of Mugla as ground and aerial extinguishing operations continue on 1 August 2021 in Mugla, Turkey. [Mahmut Serdar Alaku┼č - Anadolu Agency]
MUGLA, TURKEY - AUGUST 01: Helicopters battle the forest fire broke out in Marmaris district of Mugla as ground and aerial extinguishing operations continue on August 01, 2021 in Mugla, Turkey. Turkish authorities maintain their tireless efforts to contain forest fires that erupted in various parts of the country, particularly the southern regions. ( Mahmut Serdar Alaku┼č - Anadolu Agency )

Last week, prosecutors in Turkey launched an investigation into the social media hashtag HelpTurkey, Anadolu reports.

The government believe this hashtag is critical of its response to the country's devastating wildfires.

As #HelpTurkey became a trending topic on Twitter, government officials complained of a global conspiracy to make Turkey look weak. "Our Turkey is strong. Our state is standing tall," tweeted Erdogan's spokesman Fahrettin Altun adding the hastag StrongTurkey.

The trending hashtag drew fire from supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who said it was designed to humiliate the government.

One Turkish actor from Istanbul called on all countries to help Turkey while firefighters were battling to contain flames that spread along its Mediterranean coastline.

The US Embassy in Turkey showed solidarity, saying it was helping as Ankara had helped it in its fight against coronavirus.

Elis Gjevori, a journalist based in Turkey, said he had been told that the hashtag had been used as an "influence operation", adding that it had "eroded any meaningful discussion on the topic".

Gjevori had interviewed Assistant Professor at the Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar, Dr. Marc Owen Jones, who said the Twitter discussion was designed to make the government "weak, incompetent and desperate."

Adding that he had mapped the use of the hashtag and found a number of accounts had deleted the tweets once they had been posted, thus registering its use but later avoiding "detection".

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