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Turkey passes law to regulate social media content

Turkey passes law to regulate social media content

Turkey’s social media will be controlled tougher since Wednesday. The parliament passed a law allowing increasing censorship and help authorities silence dissent, Ahval reported.

President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party had backed the bill, which was widely criticized by other parties. On Tuesday, the Turkish MPs began debating the new legislation, and its passage was announced by the assembly on Twitter.

The law requires foreign social media sites to appoint Turkish-based representatives to address authorities’ concerns over content and includes deadlines for removal of material they take exception to. Social network providers would have 48 hours to respond to orders to remove offensive content.

As a majority of Turkey’s mainstream media has come under government control over the past decade, Turks have taken to social media and smaller online news outlets for critical voices and independent news.

Under the new regulations, companies could face fines, the blocking of advertisements or have bandwidth slashed by up to 90%, essentially blocking access.

The law also imposes fines between 1 million to 10 million lira ($146,165 – $1.5 million) on social media companies who fail to swiftly remove hate speech and other illegal content from their platforms.

Turkey’s authorities tighten control on social media

Commenting on the bill, Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin insisted that a bill aimed not at censorship but establishing commercial and legal ties with the social media platforms.

Over the years, Turks are already heavily policed on social media and many have been charged with insulting president or top officials, or criticism related to foreign military incursions and the handling of the novel pathogen.

Turkey was second globally in Twitter-related court orders in the first six months of 2019, according to the company, and it had the highest number of other legal demands from Twitter.

Erdogan has repeatedly criticised social media and said a rise of “immoral acts” online in recent years was due to lack of regulations.

Ahead of the bill’s passage, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the draft law “would give the state powerful tools for asserting even more control over the media landscape”.