Turkey approves social media law that opposition calls censorship

Istanbul: Turkey’s parliament authorised a regulation early Wednesday that offers authorities higher energy to control social media regardless of issues of rising censorship.

The regulation requires main social media firms similar to Fb and Twitter to maintain consultant places of work in Turkey to cope with complaints towards content material on their platforms.


The federal government says the laws was wanted to fight cybercrime and shield customers. Talking in parliament Wednesday morning, ruling celebration lawmaker Rumeysa Kadak mentioned it could be used to take away posts that comprise cyberbullying and insults towards girls.

Opposition lawmakers mentioned the regulation would additional restrict freedom of expression in a rustic the place the media is already underneath tight authorities management and dozens of journalists are in jail. They known as the invoice the “censorship regulation.”

If a social media firm refuses to designate an official consultant, the laws mandates steep fines, promoting bans and bandwidth reductions. With a court docket ruling, bandwidth can be halved, after which minimize additional. Bandwidth reductions imply social media networks can be too sluggish to make use of.


The consultant will likely be tasked with responding to particular person requests to take down content material violating privateness and private rights inside 48 hours or to offer grounds for rejection. The corporate can be held chargeable for damages if the content material will not be eliminated or blocked inside 24 hours.

Most alarmingly, the nine-article laws additionally would require social media suppliers to retailer person knowledge in Turkey.

Tons of of individuals have been investigated and a few arrested over social media posts on the COVID-19 pandemic, opposition to Turkish navy offensives overseas or insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and different officers.


Erdogan has demanded the regulation, vowing to “management social media platforms” and eradicate immorality.

Cyber-rights activist and educational Yaman Akdeniz tweeted: “A brand new and darkish interval is beginning in Turkey” with the brand new regulation. He argued the regulation can be used to take away content material important of the federal government reasonably than to guard customers.

Rights teams and the United Nations Workplace of the Excessive Commissioner for Human Rights got here out towards the invoice Tuesday forward of the vote, with Amnesty Worldwide calling it “draconian.”


“If handed, these amendments would considerably improve the federal government’s powers to censor on-line content material and prosecute social media customers. It is a clear violation of the best to freedom of expression on-line and contravenes worldwide human rights regulation and requirements,” Amnesty Worldwide’s Andrew Gardner mentioned.

Rights activists additionally argue that elevated management of social media can even restrict Turkish entry to unbiased or important info in a rustic the place the information media is within the palms of government-friendly businessmen or managed by the state.


Turkey leads the world in elimination requests to Twitter, with greater than 6,000 calls for within the first half of 2019.

Greater than 408,000 web sites are blocked in Turkey, in line with The Freedom of Expression Affiliation.

On-line encyclopedia Wikipedia was blocked for almost three years earlier than Turkey’s high court docket dominated that the ban violated the best to freedom of expression.

54 million folks within the nation of 83 million are lively social media customers.

A July survey by polling firm Metropoll confirmed 49.6% of respondents didn’t help a regulation that might restrict, shut down or high-quality social media firms over content material. Some 40.eight% mentioned they’d help it.


Human rights teams and the opposition are nervous over what they name the erosion of freedom of expression in Turkey, with hundreds of individuals topic to legal proceedings for “insulting” President Erdogan on social media.

Human Rights Watch expressed issues that the regulation would allow the federal government to regulate social media, to get content material eliminated at will and to arbitrarily goal particular person customers.

“Social media is a lifeline for many individuals who use it to entry information, so this regulation indicators a brand new darkish period of on-line censorship,” mentioned Tom Porteous, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch in a press release earlier than the laws handed.


The laws has aroused deep issues for a lot of Web customers in Turkey who mobilised on-line in current weeks utilizing the hashtag “don’t contact my social media”.

Social media firms didn’t instantly remark.

The regulation handed after 16 hours of tense deliberations in parliament, the place Erdogan’s ruling celebration and its nationalist ally maintain the vast majority of seats. It is going to be printed within the Official Gazette after Erdogan approves it and can come into impact on October 1.

Authorities response

Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s spokesman, disregarded fears the regulation would hamper free speech.


“There isn’t a impediment to social media customers freely expressing their opinion,” he instructed CNN-Turk tv on Tuesday.

“Right here is the rule: no matter is a criminal offense in actual world can be a criminal offense in cyber world … there have to be a restrict to criticism.”

Erdogan vowed to tighten authorities management over social media earlier this month after he mentioned “dark-hearted” customers insulted Finance Minister Berat Albayrak and his spouse Esra, the president’s daughter, following the start of their fourth little one.

And final month, the Turkish chief met with a spate of unfavorable feedback throughout a video-conference with younger folks.


The Turkish presidency then turned off feedback however there have been 388,000 clicks on the “thumbs down” button, in contrast with 114,000 on the “thumbs up” button.

Erdogan will not be a fan of social media regardless of a big following on totally different platforms, together with Twitter.

He as soon as in contrast the media platforms to a “assassin’s knife” and beforehand promised to “eradicate” Twitter.

His authorities beforehand blocked Twitter and YouTube in 2014 after audio recordings have been posted implicating the president, then prime minister, and his internal circle in an alleged corruption scandal.


Erdogan’s aversion of social media additionally dates again to anti-government protests in 2013, which have been typically mobilised by Twitter and Fb posts.
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