The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, condemned a new law on social media that passed Turkey’s General Assembly today. The law is poised to greatly expand digital censorship and threaten media freedom.
“The Law on the Arrangement of Internet Publication and Combating Crimes Committed Through These Publication”, prepared by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) places new obligations and requirements on social media providers, including forcing them to have Turkish representatives. Social networks that fail to comply with demands to remove content face steep fines, bandwith reduction and advertising bans. Platforms will also be forced to store user data in Turkey, making it easier to share these data with Turkey’s compromised judiciary.
IPI had warned that the law will increase the persecution of critical voices in Turkey including independent journalists. [See IPI’s further coverage of the law, as well as our expert webinar on digital censorship in Turkey last week.] Social media had been a last refuge for many journalists as most of Turkey’s mainstream media is directly or indirectly controlled by the government.
“This law brings the Turkish censorship regime into the social media space. It is a serious blow to free expression online, and will only lead to further persecution of journalists and other independent voices in Turkey”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen warned.
“The heavy sanctions foreseen in this bill will no doubt be used to coerce social media companies into compliance. We need to see a stronger pushback from these companies against state efforts to undermine the very freedom of expression that should be their core business.”
Online information was already a target of the judiciary. The new law will be used as a passage for the government to legitimize censorship and block critical news content, putting freedom of expression in danger.