Turkey moves toward social media restrictions

Turkey moves toward social media restrictions
The Turkish government is set to establish a parliamentary commission to further regulate the usage of social media platforms. (AFP)
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Updated 17 July 2020

Turkey moves toward social media restrictions

Turkey moves toward social media restrictions
  • The draft legislation requires the appointment of Turkey representatives for social media providers
  • The regulation would allow the government to implement access bans and impose legal and fiscal penalties

ANKARA: The Turkish government is set to establish a parliamentary commission to further regulate the usage of social media platforms.
The launching of the “Digital Mediums Commission” coincides with the plans of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to adopt legislation to increase the government’s control over free expression on social media.
The idea has been under discussion for a while, but after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s daughter Esra Albayrak was insulted on Twitter the government pressed ahead with designing a new legal framework to “abolish these platforms completely or to put them under control”, said Erdogan, who thinks social media platforms that enjoy total freedoms do not suit the nation.
These remarks came some days prior to a live appearance of Erdogan on June 26 on YouTube to give a speech to youth, but his feed was overloaded with hundreds of thousands of dislikes and negative comments from young people saying “No Vote For You Again.”
The draft legislation requires the appointment of Turkey representatives for social media providers, especially Twitter and Netflix to respond to legal requests.
The regulation would allow the government to implement access bans and impose legal and fiscal penalties.
The draft regulation with nine articles is expected to be adopted before parliament goes on vacation on July 24.
Suleyman Irvan, a professor of journalism from Uskudar University, said any restriction on social media may trigger anger from members of Generation Z.
“Obliging social media providers to open an office in Turkey aims at implementing the court rulings about social media content, especially those related to the removal of content, and bringing huge amounts of fees that would discourage any anti-government contents in the future,” he told Arab News.
The main opposition CHP thinks that the move primarily aims at curtailing people’s freedoms. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, main opposition leader, criticized the legislation, claiming that it is because Erdogan received negative feedback from the online audience during his live speech.
“He understands what is going to come from Generation Z. Otherwise, why would this subject come to the fore now? We will defend the areas of freedom against this repressive mindset,” he recently said.
Ankara criticized Twitter last month for suspending more than 7,000 government-linked accounts associated with the AKP’s youth wing, saying it was part of a wider plan to smear the government and to intervene in domestic Turkish politics.
Twitter’s official figures show that 74 percent of the legal requests to remove Twitter content originated from Turkey. The latest “Blocked Web” annual report by Freedom of Expression Association said that access to a total of 408,394 websites was blocked from 2014 to the end of 2019.
Last year, access to 130,000 URL addresses, 7,000 Twitter accounts, 10,000 YouTube videos and 6,251 Facebook posts were blocked by the government. It also banned Twitter in 2014, though the ban was lifted within few weeks through a court ruling in the country which is a global leader in Twitter usage.
Erkan Saka, an expert in social media from Istanbul Bilgi University, does not expect fair recommendations from the commission as the majority of parliamentary commissions are controlled by the members of the ruling party.
“The social media faces less control compared to the mainstream media and the government is keen to change this. This is a new step in legalizing restrictive measures that have intensified since the coup attempt in 2016,” he said.