Turkey’s parliament has ratified a bill compelling major social media companies to delete content deemed offensive and to open offices in the country. Global rights groups decried the “draconian” law as a danger to free speech.
According to the bill approved on Wednesday, social media companies with over a million daily visitors in Turkey must open offices in the country. They must likewise store data on Turkish users in Turkey, and will have 48 hours to take down any content deemed offensive by authorities. The bill also increases the fines for non-compliance to up to 10 million Turkish lira ($1.4 million).
If a social media company refuses to designate an official representative, a Turkish court can order a ban on advertising or reduce its bandwidth, making that social network work slower in Turkey.
The bill was heavily criticized by global rights groups. Amnesty International in Turkey labeled the legislation “draconian.” The organization’s researcher on Turkey Andrew Gardner said the proposed measures will lead to “the most brazen attack on free speech” in the country, giving authorities more powers to “censor online content.”
Deputy program director at Human Rights Watch, Tom Porteous, had warned earlier that, if passed and signed into law, the bill will allow the government to control social media and “arbitrarily target individual users.”
Officials in Ankara have argued that a new law is needed to curb hate speech, sexual harassment and terrorist propaganda on various social media platforms. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan renewed his push for tougher content policing earlier this month, after several people were detained for allegedly insulting his daughter and son-in-law online.
“Channels, where lies, slander, personal rights attacks and reputation conspiracies are out of control, must be brought to order,” Erdogan said.
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