What is Turkey’s new internet law about?
The Ruling Party submitted a bill proposal on regulating social media. Foreign media outlets are on outrage although many Western and “democratic” countries have much more draconian provisions for regulating social media.
On 22 July 2020, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) proposed a draft for the regulations of social media companies operating in Turkey. Some media companies were quick to label it as “an attempt to tighten the grip on social media.” The Times reported the development with the title “Erdogan plans legal crackdown on social media.” Yet, there is one big issue which these reports do not mention: Turkey is not the first country introducing measures for the control and regulation of social media. Many countries including the ones which are considered as the most developed and democratic ones have much more elaborate provisions and severe sanctions for the violation of those provisions.
The draft law requires social media companies to establish representative offices in Turkey to respond to the legal, financial and other administrative issues when doing business in Turkey. Companies which do not comply with the law face financial penalty up to TRY 10 million (roughly $1.4 million).
While such measure is called as “legal crackdown” by certain reporters, the companies may be fine up to €50 million for failing to comply with Germany’s social media law, the NetzDG. Even individuals may be fined more than the Turkish draft law foresees. Main social media platforms have already offices operating in Germany and responding to the German authorities. In July 2019, Facebook had to pay a €2 million fine to Germany for “under-reporting illegal activities” in their platform to the German state. While Facebook is fined for not reporting enough to the German authorities about illegal activities, the company has no representatives, neither reports any illegal, even criminal activity to Turkey. Therefore, it is natural for Turkey to expect a similar treatment under the same conditions.
Germany is just one example. The European Union also introduced measures which requires to delete illegal content within just one hour. In Australia, social media providers have to pay financial penalties up to 10% of their global turnover, not just in Australia, according to the Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material Act of 2019. France just recently passed “la loi de lutte contre la haine sur internet” or the law for fighting hate on social media. The legislation requires that social media sites operating in France be required to remove offending content within 24 hours of notification, or face an initial fine up to €1.25 million. Continuous and repeated offenses could lead to fines up to 4% of global revenue.
When such draconian measures are not questioned in European countries, the comments of “crackdown” and “authoritarianism” are immediately thrown against Turkey for lesser measures. It clearly represents that the owners of those comments who are considered as Turkey experts watch the developments in Turkey through a biased lens, if they do not take into account the legitimate concerns intentionally.