Turkey’s ruling coalition partner calls for block on VPN services ahead of vote on social media bill

Turkey’s ruling coalition partner, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), on Monday called for an access ban on virtual private network (VPN) apps used to circumvent banned sites, as part of Ankara’s measures to control social media use.

The Turkish government must take ‘’new and sweeping action against VPNs to prevent access to banned sites and social media platforms,’’ Duvar news site quoted MHP deputy chair Feti Yıldız as saying in a written statement submitted to parliament.

Turkish parliament is preparing this week to vote on a bill that would effectively block a number of social media sites unless they comply with strict new regulations, as part of efforts by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and ally MHP to control social media content.

“States must protect society by overseeing the uncontrolled content of the Internet,’’ Yıldız said, calling for international cooperation in working against VPN access to banned platforms. 

The draft bill on social media stipulates that social media giants like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and others must appoint a legal representative in Turkey to whom courts can turn to make requests to remove content or provide the identity of users.

According to the draft legislation, social media companies that have more than one million users will be required to have a representative in Turkey to handle legal requests. The Internet traffic bandwidth of such companies that do not comply will first be reduced to 50 percent and later to 95 percent, as stated in the draft regulation that will also allow the government to impose other penalties such as advertising and access bans.

Under the leadership of Erdoğan, the Turkish government has been prone to blocking internet access altogether in moments of crisis, with thousands being charged with insulting the president or making terrorist propaganda over their social media posts.

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