Turkish social networking bill presages ‘new dark era’ of censorship

Erdogan Turkey

The proposed legislation that the Turkey government says will make social networking companies more accountable to local regulations will instead increase censorship and accelerate a trend of authorities silencing dissent, critics including a notable UN body have said.

KEY POINTS:

  • Proposed legislation that seeking to make social networking firms more accountable to local regulations is being debated this week
  • Opponents suggest that the law will merely increase censorship and silence dissent in the country
  • The legislation is likely to pass

The Turkish parliament has begun to debate the bill that’s backed by its authoritarian President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party, that has a majority with an civic party. This week It’s expected to pass.

As an overwhelming bulk of the country’s mainstream media has come under government management throughout the decade, Turks have taken into social websites and bigger news outlets for voices and information.

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Turks are already heavily policed on social media and several have been charged with insulting Erdogan or his ministers, or complaint associated with foreign army incursions and the managing of their COVID-19 pandemic.

The law would need foreign networking websites to appoint Turkish-based agents to deal with government’ concerns over content and includes deadlines for its removal.

Companies could face fines, blocked advertisements or have bandwidth slashed by up to 90%, essentially blocking access.

“Social media is a lifeline… to get information, so this legislation signals a new dark age of online censorship,” said Tom Porteous, Human Rights Watch deputy programme director. It would damage free speech in Turkey “where an autocracy is being constructed by silencing media and all essential voices”, he added.

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“What really is a crime in the real world is also offence in the digital world,” he said on CNN Turk, adding that these included terrorism propaganda, insults and violation of personal rights.

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.

A spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said the draft law”would provide the state powerful tools for asserting even more control over the media landscape”.

“It would further undermine the right of men and women in Turkey to freedom of expression, to acquire information and to take part in public and political life”, said spokeswoman Liz Throsell.

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The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Initial reporting via our content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen. Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Nick Macfie.

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