Turkey’s ruling party to present restrictive social media regulation to parliament

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will this week propose to the legislature a bill to regulate social media, Turkish media reported.

According to the 11-article bill, reportedly based on the German model, domestic and foreign social network providers with more than 1 million daily users in Turkey will be obligated to have a representative in the country. The bill also prescribes fines for social network providers that fail to abide by the regulation.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had earlier announced that he and his government would take social media platforms under control. Commenting on allegedly defamatory and sexist social media messages about his newborn grandson, the son of his eldest daughter Esra and her husband, Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, Erdoğan said:

“We cannot agree to sit with our hands tied, so we are working on a comprehensive regulation for social media. When the legislation is complete, we will put into effect all kinds of measures, including judicial and financial sanctions, as well as access bans. I call on our parliament and our party to quickly draft [the necessary regulation] and put it into effect immediately. I hope this issue will be dealt with before the end of this legislative session.”

The ruling party is planning to pass the bill into law before parliament closes for summer vacation. The bill, already shared with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the AKP’s ultranationalist supporter, will first be sent to opposition parties for review. The bill will be presented to parliament later this week.

According to the bill, the Internet traffic bandwidth of a social network provider that does not abide by the regulation will be reduced first by 50 percent and then up to 95 percent. Social network providers will be required to keep data on users in Turkey. Fines will be imposed on platforms that fail to comply with this requirement and that do not comply with the obligation to report on the implementation of decisions to block access or remove content.

The bill also enables individuals to apply for content removal or access denial to social network providers for which the providers will have to respond within a specified period. Network providers that leave applications unanswered will be fined. The network provider will be notified of content determined by a court to be unlawful. The social network provider that fails to take action within the specified period will be held responsible for damages incurred by the content.

Criticizing the government on social media platforms is heavily sanctioned in Turkey, sometimes triggering a counterterrorism investigation. According to a US State Department human rights report, between January 1 and April 9, 2019 Turkish authorities examined 10,250 social media accounts and took legal action against more than 3,600 users, accusing them of propagandizing for or promoting terrorist organizations, inciting persons to enmity and hostility, or insulting state institutions.

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