The bill imposes comprehensive social media legislation and requires foreign social media companies with more than 1 million users – such as Twitter and Facebook – to have a representative in the country. Under the new law, social media providers will be required to store data on domestic users in Turkey, imposing fines of up to $ 1.5 million, as well as bandwidth restrictions and advertising bans for non-compliance.
The government is defending the law as an attempt to protect approximately 55 million users in Turkey from misinformation. “The bill was drafted with an innovative approach to protecting users compared to their restrictions,” Ismail Cesur, presidential adviser, tweeted.
“The aim of the bill is to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens and to avoid misinformation,”; said Mahir Unal, the government’s deputy chairman for justice and development, in an interview with the state broadcaster TRT.
Why are rights groups worried?
Critics fear the new law will arm social media companies against voices critical of the government.
Turkey has already experienced freedom of speech and expression in retreat. According to a report by Turkish Internet Freedom Guardian Ifade Ozgurlugu Platform, more than 408,000 websites were blocked in Turkey by the end of 2019.
During the same period, 7,000 Twitter accounts, 40,000 tweets, 10,000 YouTube videos and 6,200 Facebook contents were blocked. While some companies complied with the Turkish courts’ orders to release the content, other requests were ignored.
The new law forces companies to comply with collection orders. “The goal is to silence criticism,” said Yaman Akdeniz, a computer rights expert and professor of law at Bilgi University in Istanbul.
When will it take effect?
The law has yet to be approved by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but at this point it is just a formality. He has already spoken out in favor of further regulations on social media platforms. The bill, which was approved by parliament, allows technical companies to comply with the new law by October.
What do technical companies do?
Social media companies have not yet responded to the bill, but cyber rights experts say the platforms should leave the Turkish market instead of complying with the new law. “I tell the technical companies that they will not come under these circumstances. If so, you will become a long hand of the Turkish judiciary and you will be forced to comply with all requirements,” Akdeniz said. In fact, the law means that platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram will have to decide whether to withdraw from the lucrative Turkish market or to abide by the new measures.
Facebook and Snapchat declined to comment, while Twitter did not respond to a comment request.
Did it happen somewhere else?
The Turkish government claims that the bill was drafted under the German law on network enforcement to combat online hate speech. “We saw Germany as its starting point, from securing our freedom to use social platforms, combating misinformation, to protecting our right to privacy and protecting our data, and we came up with these new regulations,” said the government party Unal. he said.
However, the rights groups criticized German law as erroneous.
“It’s vague, cross-border and private companies are turning into exaggerated censors to avoid harsh fines, leaving users with no judicial oversight or right of appeal,” said Wenzel Michalski, a German lawyer in Human Watch Watch 2018. .
Akdeniz also warned that, given Turkey’s political climate, a sharp decline in freedom of expression and the results of appeasing critics, “the comparison with Germany is not valid.”