Turkey has fined global social media companies, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, 10 million lira ($1.18m) each for not complying with a new social media law.
The new law, which came into effect in October, requires platforms with more than one million daily users in Turkey to appoint a representative accountable to Turkish courts, abide by orders to remove “offensive” content within 48 hours and store user data inside Turkey.
Opposition parties, however, have expressed concerns that the government’s plans are aimed at further limiting the Turkish public’s ability to access social media and reach independent news and information in an environment dominated by pro-government media.
The fines are the first step on an escalating scale of penalties that can end in a block on 90 percent of the site’s internet traffic bandwidth.
Omer Fatih Sayan, chairman of the Information and Communication Technologies Authority, announced on Twitter that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Periscope, YouTube and TikTok would be fined.
“Foreign companies operating in Turkey that reach more than one million people daily have been told about some of the rules they need to comply with,” Sayan, who is also Turkey’s deputy transport and infrastructure minister, said.
Sayan added that measures, in case of further non-compliance, will include a 30 million lira ($3.5m) fine, a ban on advertisement and a 50 percent bandwidth cut within five months.
Companies that still do not follow the law will have their bandwidth slashed by 90 percent, he said, essentially blocking access.
If companies comply, Sayan said the restrictions will be lifted and a quarter of the imposed fine will be collected.
“Our aim is not to be in conflict with these providers serving billions of people around the world,” tweeted Sayan.
The legislation was passed in July, less than a month after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for social media sites to be “cleaned up” as his daughter and son-in-law were insulted on Twitter following the birth of their fourth child.
President Erdogan, who has more than 16.5 million Twitter followers, has also expressed his views against social media several times.
Governing party legislator, Ozlem Zengin told reporters that the legislation’s “aim is to put an end to insults, swearing, to harassment made through social media.
“We’re aware of its place in our lives and we’re also aware of the extent of its use, but, in this sense, there is a series of tiered sanctions [in the new measures] trying to set a balance between freedoms and rights and justice.
“Our priority is not to close down the social media providers. We are aware of the importance in our lives.”
Emma Sinclair-Web, Turkey director of US-based Human Rights Watch, described the legislation as “draconian”, and called on social media giants not to comply with it.
“Twitter @Policy & @Facebook should avoid the terrible precedent it sets and not comply & Turkey’s authorities should backtrack,” she tweeted
The country has previously blocked sites including YouTube, Twitter and Wikipedia for what it claimed was offensive content.
Leave a Reply