The Turkish Parliament passed a social media regulation on July 29 that will, if signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, further stifle free speech through social media, the only remaining refuge for critical journalists, human rights defenders and activists.
The 11-article regulation obligates foreign social network providers with more than 1 million daily users in Turkey to maintain a representative in the country. If they fail to appoint a local representative, they will face progressive sanctions in the form of exorbitant administrative fines up to 4 million euros, three-month advertising bans and bandwidth reduction that can go up to 90 percent.
“The new regulation with its draconian provisions will further stifle freedom of expression under the guise of regulating social media. It will be a new scourge in the hands of the authorities to crack down on critics and dissidents expressing their thoughts through social media platforms, the last refuge left to them after the mainstream media of the country yielded almost in its entirety to the will of the ruling party,” said Abdullah Bozkurt, president of the Stockholm Center for Freedom.
The bill also prescribes huge administrative fines for social network providers that fail to abide by the provisions of the bill in terms of content removal stemming from individuals as well as government authorities.
According to the new regulation, social network providers are required to keep users’ data locally, prompting the fear that they will be compelled to transmit these data to the authorities for prosecution and sanctions, a circumstance that will boost the self-censorship already widespread among Turkish social media users.
The right to freedom of speech is enshrined in all human rights conventions as a constituent element of a democratic and open society. The Turkish government must respect its obligations emanating from international human rights law, and President Erdoğan needs to return this bill to the parliament for reconsideration.
About the Stockholm Center for Freedom
A Swedish-based, non-profit advocacy organization, SCF promotes the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights and freedoms with a special focus on Turkey.
SCF is committed to serving as a reference source by providing a broad perspective on rights violations in Turkey, monitoring daily developments through the lens of fact-based investigative journalism and documenting individual cases of infringement of fundamental rights and liberties.