Netflix to open office in Turkey amid growing concerns over gov’t censorship

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Online streaming platform Netflix announced on Thursday that it would open an office in İstanbul by the second half of 2021, after a new law that requires Internet platforms to name a representative in the country sparked fears of censorship.

Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, Turkey’s culture and tourism minister, welcomed the move by Netflix, saying, “The fact that Turkish series and movies can be watched in 190 countries will help the development of the country’s film tourism.”

Reed Hastings, the co-founder and co-CEO of Netflix, said the decision to set up shop in İstanbul clearly shows the company’s commitment to Turkey, stressing that the move will contribute to Netflix production of more Turkish output to be enjoyed all over the world.

Netflix was targeted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in July, who said the content it produced was “immoral” and “beneath the nation.”

The online streaming platform was previously at the center of a censorship debate in the country as it allegedly removed a gay character from a series at the request of the Turkish government and canceled a show after a similar request while production was underway. The platform and the government denied the allegations.

Turkey’s new social media law that went into effect on Oct. 1 tightens control over Internet platforms by requiring companies to respond within 48 hours to requests to remove content. The regulation is feared to be used to silence dissent in Turkey as it provides broad powers that allow authorities to block access to anything they might consider illegal.

Ankara has recently imposed two rounds of fines on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, first TL 10 million ($1.17 million) and most recently TL 30 million ($3.8 million), for failing to comply with the new social media law.

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