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Turkey proposes law to tighten control of social media

AFP , Tuesday 21 Jul 2020
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Turkey's ruling party on Tuesday presented a bill to parliament which would give the government greater control of social media but critics are concerned over the proposal's impact on freedom of speech.

Human rights groups and the opposition already point to the erosion of freedom of expression in Turkey, with thousands of people subject to criminal proceedings for "insulting" President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on social media.

They argue that increased control of social media could also limit Turkish access to independent or critical information in a country where the news media is in the hands of government-friendly businessmen or controlled by the state.

Under the new regulations, if passed,, social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter would have to ensure they have local representatives in Turkey or face having their internet traffic restricted by up to 90 percent, according to the text seen by AFP.

Social media companies must also remove content within 24 hours of court requests, and risk heavy financial penalties if they do not comply with the orders.

The law would affect social networks with more than a million unique visits every day, and proposes servers with Turkish users' data must be stored in Turkey.

The bill aims to "put an end to insults and harassment" online, Ozlem Zengin of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said during a press conference on Tuesday.

It was submitted by the AKP and its nationalist partner, the MHP, which have a majority in the parliament.

Erdogan vowed to tighten government control over social media earlier this month after he said "dark-hearted" users insulted Finance Minister Berat Albayrak and his wife Esra, who is the president's daughter, following the birth of their fourth child.

The president is not a fan of social media despite a large following on different platforms, including Twitter. He once compared the media platforms to a "murderer's knife".

A Turkish court in January lifted a ban on the online encyclopedia Wikipedia after almost three years.

According to Twitter's latest "transparency report" for the first half of 2019, Turkey ranked number one for seeking content removal with more than 6,000 requests.

 

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