Turkey passes law to regulate social media content

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is applauding lawmakers' final speeches on a bill giving the government greater powers to regulate social media

Turkey passes law to regulate social media content

Companies could face fines, the blocking of advertisements or have bandwidth slashed by up to 90 percent, essentially blocking access, under the new regulations.

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".

Turks are already heavily policed on social media and the new regulations, especially if user data is vulnerable, will have a "chilling effect", said Yaman Akdeniz, cyber rights expert and professor at Istanbul Bilgi University.

The AKP rejects claims the law will lead to censorship and says it aims to protect personal rights and data. "Our first priority is never the closure of social media providers".

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Hundreds in Turkey have been investigated, and some arrested, over social media posts about the coronavirus pandemic, Turkish military activity overseas and insulting remarks about Mr Erdogan as well as other officials.

Critics say the new law will increase censorship and help silence dissent.

Ahead of the parliamentary vote, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the law "would give the state powerful tools for asserting even more control over the media landscape".

Turkish authorities blocked the online encyclopedia Wikipedia for three years until the country's top court ruled that doing so was a violation of the right to freedom of expression. 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.

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According to the statistics compiled by the activist group Engelli Web, there are already thousands of court orders that ban access to more than 400,000 websites, 130,000 URL links, 7,000 Twitter accounts, 40,000 tweets, 10,000 YouTube videos and 6,200 Facebook posts.

A Turkish court in January lifted a ban on the online encyclopedia Wikipedia after nearly three years. The Journalists' Union of Turkey says 76 journalists and media staff are behind bars in Turkey.

The bill, which was passed by lawmakers from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), sets a formal and legal precedent for the operation of popular social media sites in Turkey.

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