The Turkish Parliament passed a law that will give authorities more powers to control social media content early July 29.
The law requires foreign social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to appoint Turkish-based representatives to address authorities’ concerns over content and includes deadlines for removal of material they take exception to.
Companies could face fines, the blocking of advertisements or have bandwidth slashed by up to 90 percent, essentially blocking access, under the new regulations on cases such as if they fail to designate a representative or if the content that has been found unacceptable is not removed or blocked within 24 hours.
Administrative fines for providers who fail to meet obligations would be raised to encourage compliance. Previously, fines were between 10,000-100,000 Turkish Liras ($1,500 – $15,000), but the amount would now be between 1 million – 10 million liras ($146,165 – $1,461,650).
If the representative will be a real entity, not a legal one, it has to be a Turkish citizen. The new legislation requires user data from social media networks to be stored in Turkey.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) supported the bill, while the opposition parties objected on the argument that the legislation will lead to greater censorship in the country.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmakers protested the law proposal with placards depicting the upside-down hand emoji, which means “dislike” on social media platforms.
CHP deputy group chair Engin Özkoç criticized the government for “seizing” mainstream media and said people had found refuge in social media to express their opinions in the absence of an impartial media. “We believe and support that any kind of thoughts that do not exceed the limits of morality should be freely expressed on social media,” Özkoç told reporters ahead of the debate at the parliament’s general assembly on July 28.
The CHP earlier indicated that they might apply to the Constitutional Court for the social media regulation.
İYİ (Good) Party group deputy chair Lütfü Türkkan suggested that the ruling party aims to make the internet “a part of a totalitarian regime that they want to build, and it has betrayed” Turkey’s future. “The government is trying to build a new regime in Turkey,” he said.
Social media regulation does not include the purpose of “closing social media or banning it,” Deputy Chair of the AKP Mahir Ünal said speaking to TRT broadcaster.
“On the contrary, this is an arrangement in this area and 55 million of our citizens are users in social networks,” he stated.
Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said on July 28 the bill would not lead to censorship but would establish commercial and legal ties with the social media platforms.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly criticized social media and said a rise of “immoral acts” online in recent years was due to a lack of regulations.
Meanwhile, the lawmakers also approved a motion putting parliament on recess until Oct. 1.