Turkish lawmakers were making their final speeches Tuesday before voting on a bill that would give the government greater powers to regulate social media, in what human rights groups and the opposition have decried as a violation of free expression online.
The new legislation would require major social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter to keep representative offices in Turkey to deal with complaints against content on their platforms.
The government says the draft legislation is needed to combat cybercrime, and will protect people from slander while safeguarding their right to privacy. But critics say Turkey’s worrying track record on internet freedoms indicates the law would be used to restrict rather than protect.
Hundreds of social media users have already been investigated and some arrested for their posts on the COVID-19 pandemic, opposition to Turkish military offensives in Syria or insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other officials.
The U.S.-based non-profit research and advocacy organization Freedom House rates Turkey as “not free” in its 2019 Freedom of the Net index.
If the social media company refuses to designate an official representative, the legislation mandates steep fines, advertising bans and bandwidth reductions. With a court ruling, bandwidth would be reduced by fifty percent and then by fifty to ninety percent. Bandwidth reductions mean social media networks would be too slow to use.
Read more: AP