Record fine for Google from Turkey’s Competition Board

Turkey’s Competition Board issued a 200 million lira ($26 million) fine to Google, Reuters reported on Friday.

The fine was based on the U.S.-based tech company for ‘abusing its market dominance’. Google had been issued a previous fine of around 100 million Turkish lira ($13 million) in February 2020.

The Competition Board, in its decision dated November 12, 2020, decided that Google had violated Turkey’s Competition Protection Act by “complicating organic search results in the content services market by placing text ads intensively and uncertainly at the top of the general search results”, according to pro-government news site Daily Sabah.

The Turkish government recently implemented a new social media regulation law, under which Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and other providers with more than 1 million daily users are obliged to open an office and appoint a representative in Turkey to deal with complaints. From the start of October, platforms that do not meet this requirement will have fines gradually imposed.

According to the new law, the Information and Technology Authority (BTK) will notify these institutions about their obligation to have representatives and within 30 days, companies that do not comply with the obligation will be fined TL 10 million. After another 30 days, this penalty will rise to TL 30 million.

Social media providers who do not follow the law will also see their internet bandwidth reduced by between 50 to 90 percent, making it very difficult to use image-heavy services like Youtube. But so far, there are no applications from any of these companies for opening offices in Turkey.

Yaman Akdeniz, an expert on Internet law and founder of İFOD, the Freedom of Expression Association, says institutions will likely not comply.

Referring to the fact that Twitter does not implement decisions censoring freedom of expression and the press, Akdeniz said: "for this reason, I do not think Twitter will invest in Turkey. Similarly, I believe that Facebook will not follow this path. But Google is a complete mystery to me."

According to Akdeniz, if providers completely refuse to open representative offices, the decision to narrow their bandwidth could be taken as early as May 2021, given the periods specified in the law.