• Friday, Feb 26, 2021
  • Last Update : 04:10 pm

Turkey hits Twitter with ad ban under new media law

  • Published at 04:55 pm January 19th, 2021
File photo: The Twitter logo and binary cyber codes are seen in this illustration taken November 26, 2019 Reuters

If the networks continue to ignore the law, Turkey will cut their bandwidth by 50% in April and then 90% by May

Turkey on Tuesday hit Twitter, Pinterest, and Periscope with advertising bans after they failed to follow Facebook and appoint a local envoy to take down contentious posts under a controversial new law.

Freedom of speech defenders view the new regulations as part of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's attempt to control social media and clamp down on dissent.

Continued failure to comply could jeopardise Twitter's future in Turkey, which the platform lists as one of the top three countries -- along with China and Russia -- requesting the removal of posts.

New rules that went into force in October require networks with more than one million unique daily users to appoint an envoy to handle court orders to remove offending content within 48 hours.

Turkey's deputy infrastructure minister Omer Fatih Sayan tweeted that companies still advertising on the three non-compliant platforms will be fined.

Ankara is "determined to do whatever is necessary to protect our people's data, privacy and rights," said Sayan.

If the networks continue to ignore the law, Turkey will cut their bandwidth by 50% in April and then 90% by May, thus rendering them effectively inaccessible.

Facebook said Monday it will appoint a local envoy but recognised "how important it is for our platform to be a place where users can exercise their freedom of expression.”

It joins YouTube, TikTok and Dailymotion in compliance, drawing anger from activists. Facebook's Russian equivalent VK opened a local office in November. Twitter intends to shut down its live streaming app Periscope in March.

'Cyber homeland'

Milena Buyum, Amnesty International's Turkey campaigner, said on Monday that "Facebook's decision leaves them -- and Google, YouTube, and others -- in serious danger of becoming an instrument of state censorship.”

Sarah Clarke, who heads the Article 19 media freedom group's Europe and Central Asia programme, called on the companies "not to contribute to Turkey's censorship of online content.”

She also warned of the risk of exposing users to "arbitrary arrest and prosecution by handing over their private data to Turkish authorities.”

Research shows that as Erdogan's grip on mainstream media tightened, especially since he survived a failed coup in 2016, younger people have sought information online, especially on social media.

Erdogan last week warned that the "cyber world... has become a threat to humanity,” promising to create a "cyber homeland" as part of Turkey's defence.

"Those who control data can establish their digital dictatorships by disregarding democracy, the law, rights and freedoms," Erdogan said.

According to the Freedom of Expression Association in Turkey, more than 450,000 domains and over 42,000 tweets have been blocked as of October 2020.

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