Turkey to push forward with social media penalties as tech giants resist

Turkey will continue to implement its recently-instated regulations that will severely penalise social media companies if they don’t comply, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoğlu told daily Hürriyet in an interview on Thursday.

“We have a multi-step system in front of us. We will do whatever is necessary,” Karaismailoğlu said. “It is wrong to enter into different expectations.”

According to Turkey’s new social media law that went into effect on Oct. 1, online platforms will need to appoint a Turkish citizen to be responsible for their operations in Turkey, and comply within 48 hours with the government’s requests to remove content. If they refuse, the penalties they may face fines of up to five million liras ($630,000) and bandwidth throttling of up to 90 percent, which would in effect render most image- and video-heavy platforms unusable.

Facebook, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, has decided to not appoint a representative, free speech advocate and human rights lawyer Yaman Akdeniz said on Oct. 5, citing a meeting he had with representatives from the company. Other companies may also refuse to comply.

“I don’t know why they would act this way, but this country is a state with rules,” Minister Karaismailoğlu said. “We will wait, and do whatever each step requires. I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Turkish officials continue to talk with companies, Karaismailoğlu said, without giving details.

The new law entered Turkey’s agenda after several social media users posted offensive comments about Hamza Salih Albayrak - the newborn son of Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, and grandson of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan - on July 1. Eleven people were detained for their posts, and Erdoğan said current laws were inefficient during a meeting of his party’s central executive committee two days later.

Similar discussions have flared up and sizzled out over the years several times, but it wasn’t until late May, when U.S. President Donald Trump targeted Section 230, a piece of legislation that gives platform providers immunity from civil liability for content uploaded on their services.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case of Section 230, with one justice saying the immunity could be narrowed or eliminated, but the matter should be reviewed when a better case presented itself.