New social media regulations in Turkey went into force on Thursday, marking the start of a new era in the public use of platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
According to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the new regulations aim to protect citizens’ personal data and obliges social media outlets like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to have representatives in the country for removing unlawful content and to block access to harmful content.
Parliament ratified the social media regulation bill initially back in July, compelling platforms to comply with conditions or face fines and bandwidth reduction.
The government says the legislation was needed to combat cybercrime and protect users.
The bill sets a formal definition of social media providers and aims to designate a responsible representative for investigations and legal proceedings relating to offenses on platforms.
It defines real or legal entities that allow users to create, monitor or share online content such as text, visual content, voice recordings and locations for social interaction as social network providers.
Foreign-based social network providers that have more than 1 million daily visitors in Turkey will assign at least one representative in the country. That person’s contact information will be included on the website in a way that is obvious and easy to access.
The representative has to be a Turkish citizen if they are not a legal entity.
The representative will be tasked with responding to individual requests to take down content violating privacy and personal rights within 48 hours or to provide grounds for rejection. The company will be held liable for damages if the content is not removed or blocked within 24 hours.
The new legislation also requires social media providers to store user data in Turkey.
Administrative fines for providers who fail to meet obligations will be raised to encourage compliance. Previously, fines were between TL 10,000 and TL 100,000 ($1,500 to $15,000), but the new amount will be between TL 1 million and TL 10 million.
Alarmed by the move, some rights groups have urged technology giants Google, Twitter and Facebook not to comply with Turkish attempts to regulate social media, claiming that it will increase online censorship.
However, despite the calls, Twitter and Instagram have not commented on the issue yet.
Facebook's human rights officer Iain Levine, on the other hand, tweeted on Wednesday that the move "raises many concerns (about) human rights."
Turkish leaders have long pushed for reforms and recently pressed the issue after a series of insults directed at mostly women in politics, including the family members of politicians, were posted online.
Turkey struggles to fight fake news and defamation campaigns on social media, and the bill aims to prevent users from engaging in such activities.
Similar examples used in Germany and France were taken into consideration as a reference while drafting the law.
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