Turkey starts to issue fines to social media giants for non-compliance with new law

Social network providers who have not complied with Turkey’s new social media law, have been issued with 10 million TL ($1.17 million) fines on Wednesday, Turkish broadcaster NTV reported.

Many international companies have refused to comply with the restrictive new law which requires them to appoint a legal representative in Turkey. Companies including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Periscope, YouTube and TikTok have not appointed a representative and have been fined by Turkish authorities.

The President of Turkey’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK), Ömer Fatih Sayan, said escalating penalties are under way unless they comply with the obligation.

If the social media companies still do not comply after another 30 days, a fine of 30 million TL can then be imposed, news channel NTV said.

“Only the Russian VK decided to comply so far. Facebook indirectly announced that they will not be coming to Turkey under the current circumstances. The others continue to keep silent. However, this is a long process to be honest and not the end of the story yet. The government's plan is so far not working while the social media giants remain silent,” Human rights lawyer and cyber activist Yaman Akdeniz told Ahval.

On July 29, the Turkish parliament ratified a new social media law that critics say could be used to stifle dissent.

Under the new regulations, social media companies with more than one million users must appoint a legal representative in Turkey to address the authorities' concerns including by meeting strict deadlines for the removal of content.

Companies could face fines, blocked advertisements or have their bandwidth slashed by up to 90 percent, essentially blocking access.

Social network providers would have 48 hours to respond to orders to remove offensive content and the law also imposes fines between 1 million to 10 million lira ($117,511 - $1.2 million) on social media companies who fail to swiftly remove hate speech and other illegal content from their platforms. The fines cascade as non-compliance by companies continued.

Turkey already ranks behind Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Azerbaijan in Internet freedom, according to Freedom House, a U.S.-based non-governmental organisation focusing on democracy and human rights.

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