Turkey: Parliament approves social media law, angers citizens

The Turkish Parliament approves social media law
The Turkish Parliament approves social media law

Turkey’s Parliament approved the social media law on Wednesday. It imposes regulations on the social media platform with over 1 million users. The law requires social media platforms to set up representative offices in Turkey for smooth functioning to look into complaints against the content. Also, user data will be stored. The law goes into effect on October 1.

Apparently, according to The Freedom of Expression Association, 4,08,000 websites are blocked in Turkey. Despite that, the President Erdogan demands more control over social media platforms.

President Erdogan’s ruling party and its nationalist ally hold the majority of seats in Parliament. 16 hours of deliberation led them to passing the law, which is exactly what they wanted.

Turkey social media law: remove content with complaints, or face charges

If the social media denies to assign any representative officials then the parliament will order charges on the company. Moreover, they can ban the platform or reduce its bandwidth. This means that the platform will become too slow to use. if the court goes forward with it, bandwidth will be reduced by 50% firstly and later by 90%.

The work assigned to the representatives will be to respond to individual requests. Any content violating privacy and personal rights needs to be looked into and within 48 hours and removed in 24 hours. Otherwise, the company will pay a penalty of $700,000 or more.

The legislation also forces some social media providers to store the user data in Turkey, which is another privacy concern.

The lawmakers vs. the people

According to the government, this law making was necessary to fight Cyber crimes and to protect users. Whereas the opposition lawmakers believe that it is limiting the freedom of expression.

Lawmakers believe social media law will reduce internet crimes

The lawmaker of the ruling party Rumeysa KadakΒ believes it will help in removing posts related to cyber-bullying and abuse against women. The government of Turkey wants to control social media through this law the same way they control media – in order to protect human rights.

Also, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s newborn grandson received insults from across social media platforms. Even then, people were detained. Hence, Erdogan said that this type of defamation and the personal attacks need to stop. He added that the platforms have enough space. Now, they need to get under control.

To reduce crime, or to cover it up?

Six years ago, Erdogan’s involvement in a corruption case was all over the social media. He ordered the blocking of those websites. Furthermore, the cops who exposed him received a sentence of life in jail.

Critics: Law reduces freedom of speech

On the other hand, the opposition believes that the current state and system of Turkey cannot be changed simply by controlling social media platforms. Journalists and media are already under strict control of the government. In fact, many people are behind bars because of social media posts.

Social media acts as lifeline to those using it as a news source. With the government controlling it, content can be removed without any prior information. Hence, they can stop the citizens from knowing the true, unbiased news. It is just a way to target individuals, Tom Porteous, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch, said.

Yaman Akdeniz, an expert in online rights tweeted that β€œa new and dark period in Turkey is starting. The aim is to silence.”

Censorship already abundant in Turkey

In 2017, the Turkey government banned Wikipedia and only removed the ban this past January.

Netflix, the most famous entertainment site in Turkey, also has to remove or blur actions like smoking. Once, it also cancelled a show with a gay character as they did not want to change the content.

A total of 130,000 web addresses were blocked last year, according to the Akdeniz whose organisation, The Freedom of Expression Association, creates annual reports. Furthermore, 40,000 tweets, 10,000 YouTube videos and 6,200 Facebook posts were removed.

Turkey’s not the only one with strict laws like these. Germany’s social media law faced strong criticism from citizens and human rights’ groups alike. Despite that, Turkey, Russia, Singapore and the Philippines looked up to it. As of late, India too cracked down on people who voiced opinions against the government on the internet and arrested them.

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