Turkey fines social media companies $3.8 million for failing to comply with 'anti-free speech' regulations

Turkey fines social media companies $3.8 million for failing to comply with 'anti-free speech' regulations
Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and other major social media companies have failed to comply with Turkish Internet regulations which human rights group have condemned.
2 min read
12 December, 2020
TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and Periscope have all been fined by Turkey [Getty]
Turkey has slapped fines of $3.8 million on social media companies including Twitter and Facebook after they failed to comply with new regulations, local media reported.

The Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) imposed the fines on all social media outlets accessed more than one million times a day in Turkey, including TikTok and YouTube.

Last month, the companies were fined $1.2 million after they failed to appoint a local legal representative, a requirement brought in under new social media regulations this year.

After a 30-day term, that fine increased to $3.8 million.

If the social media giants still fail to appoint a Turkish representative after a month, local companies will be barred from advertising on their sites. 

If non-compliance continues, Turkish authorities will gradually reduce the Internet bandwidth granted to the sites.

Last month, Turkey blocked access to the music streaming service Tidal, which is owned by American rap superstar Jay Z, for failing to comply with the regulations.

Ankara issued new internet regulations last year requiring any Internet-based service with audio-visual or radio content to acquire government-issued licences. 

The restrictions were tightened this year and now require Internet-based broadcasting and social media services such as Netflix and YouTube to appoint a legal representative in Turkey and comply with government requests to remove content.

Social media companies are also obliged to hand over data twice a year, as well as comply with court requests for user information.

While the Turkish government says the regulations are geared at controlling the spread of disinformation online, critics claim the restrictions are part of a crackdown on free speech in the country.

Earlier this year, Amnesty International described the measures as the "latest and perhaps the most brazen attack on free expression in Turkey".

"Journalists already spend years behind bars for their critical news and social media users must self-censor in fear of offending the authorities," said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty researcher for Turkey.

The new law "announces a dark period of online censorship", Human Rights Watch added.

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