Turkey Fines Social Media Platforms

  • The Turkish Parliament passed a law in late July that strengthens control over social networks.
  • At present, there are over 500,000 sites that are banned by the Turkish government.
  • 37 million Turkish residents use Facebook, and 16 million use Twitter.

Facebook Instagram, Twitter, Periscope, YouTube and TikTok platforms have been hit with heavy fines since a new law came into force in Turkey to tighten regulation of social networks. They were each fined 10 million liras ($1.174 million) for not naming their local representative at the appointed time.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a Turkish politician serving as the 12th and current President of Turkey since 2014. He previously served as Prime Minister from 2003 to 2014 and as Mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998.

Turkey’s Deputy Minister of Transport and Infrastructure, Omer Fatih Sayan, made the announcement, as reported by VOA on Wednesday. The Turkish Parliament passed a law in late July that strengthens control over social networks. If they are visited by more than 1 million users a day in Turkey, they must open a local branch and appoint a representative with Turkish citizenship.

If this requirement is not met, the traffic of popular social networks may be restricted by the court by 95 percent. The legislation also requires social networks to store user data in Turkey, making it easier for prosecutors and other authorities to access such information.

The law also requires platforms to respond to requests to remove or block content within 48 hours. However, the opposition believes it is another form of censorship. It should be noted that the storage requirements are the same in Russia. At present, there are over 500,000 sites that are banned by the Turkish government.

Furthermore, the human rights organization Reporters Without Borders has previously condemned the actions of officials in Ankara, pointing out that social media is “the last refuge of critical journalism in Turkey.”

Human rights activists regarded the bill as the only response of the “politically weakened” Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to harsh criticism on the Internet. According to Reporters Without Borders, 37 million Turkish residents use Facebook, and 16 million use Twitter.

The development and adoption of the legislative initiative was preceded by an incident that happened to members of the Erdogan family. The President’s daughter, Esra Erdogan, and her husband, Berat Albayrak, who holds the post of Turkish Finance Minister, announced on Twitter the birth of their fourth child. Many users reacted with a hail of ridicule and insults.

VK (short for its original name VKontakte, “In Contact”) is a Russian online social media and social networking service based in Saint Petersburg. VK is available in multiple languages but it is predominantly used by Russian-speakers.

The Turkish President was infuriated by this reaction, and announced the upcoming tightening of the rules for using social platforms. The interesting parallel between the US President, Donald Trump, and Erdogan is that both have appointed their family members to places of high authority without merit.

The next step after the fines is possibly of completely blocking social media sites in Turkey. However, it is highly unlikely that Turkey is capable of creating its own alternatives, as China (WeChat) and Russia (Vkontakte). WeChat has been recently banned in the US due to the security concerns.

Overall, Erdogan wants to retain further control of the country. His desire to be a totalitarian leader far exceeds any normalcy. The latest developments only strengthen the belief that Erdogan’s Turkey is not a Western ally.

On the contrary, Turkey is actually dangerous due to its ideology. At present, the Coronavirus and US election has been on the forefront of the news. Hence, the situation with Turkey is on the back burner. Such a scenario allows Erdogan an attempt to cause disruptions around the globe.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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