Turkey Sanctions the Highly Controversial Social Media Bill

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On July 29, the Turkish Parliament ratified a Bill. This Bill seeks to regulate and bring about a change to how social media operates in the country. The Justice and Development (AK) Party and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) support the move. The AK Party is the ruling party whose ally is the MHP Party.

Background

On July 1, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that social media should be either banned or controlled and regulated. Erdogan is the President and Chair of the Justice and Development Party. This happened after insults were aimed at the Finance Minister and his son minister. The insults were thrown at them when the latter announced with a tweet about the birth of their new child. Erdogan defined those tweets as “immoral” and “dishonourable”. He then remarked, “we want this kind of media to be completely
removed, controlled.”

In May, the police had examined over 110,000 accounts. More than 7000 people were detained because of their social media posts. The Ministry of Interior revealed. Turkey had also previously banned some of the most-used websites in the world. These included Wikipedia, Twitter, and YouTube.

The Bill

The Bill mandates any foreign-based social media website with over a million users to appoint representatives. These representatives must be based in Turkey.
Their work would be to address concerns that Turkish authorities might raise over the content. A deadline of 48 hours has also been given. Within this time frame, the objectionable content will have to be removed. If the websites do not comply, there are penalties involved. These include fines, blocking of advertisements, or a slashing of bandwidth up to 90%.

What Has Been The Reaction To The Bill?

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The AK Party and its President, Erdogan denounced that the Bill would protect the citizens. The Bill was needed to combat cybercrime, slander. It would also help develop legal and commercial connections with social media companies.

However, the opposition parties have disapproved of the Bill. Increased censorship will only suppress dissent. This will further cement an autocratic regime. The Bill goes against the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and expression by all means.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International has condemned the Bill on similar grounds.

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Turkey is to bargain with the social media companies until the Bill becomes law on October 1st 2020.


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