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Social media giants slapped with second hefty fine under controversial law

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Turkey has again imposed fines, this time in the amount of TL 30 million ($3.8 million) each, on social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for failing to comply with a new law that tightens control over social media by requiring platforms to name a representative in Turkey, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

The second round of fines was imposed because the companies failed to appoint representatives within the required period of time.

Bloomberg was the first to report on the second round of fines on Dec. 3 based on the statement of an anonymous government official.

Social media companies Instagram, Periscope, TikTok, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Dailymotion have also been levied an identical fine. All have a daily access rate of more than 1 million in Turkey.

The companies were slapped with a fine of TL 10 million ($1.17 million) on Nov. 4 for the same reason.

Only one Russian social media company, VKontakte (VK), has appointed a  local representative to Turkey so far.

The new social media law, which went into effect on Oct. 1, is feared to be used to silence dissent in Turkey, where there are widespread concerns about freedom of expression, as the law requires social media companies to respond within 48 hours to requests to remove content, a broad power that allows authorities to block access to anything they might consider illegal.

If the social media companies continue to refuse to appoint local representatives to Turkey, private businesses and individuals in Turkey will be prohibited in January from giving ads to these companies.

In addition, the Turkish Telecommunications Authority (BTK) will be able to go to court and demand a reduction of 50 percent of the social media companies’ Internet bandwidth, making the platforms too slow to use if the companies do not observe the requirements of the new social media law for another three months after the enforcement of the advertising ban. The companies may face as much as a 90 percent cut in their Internet bandwidth.

If the companies appoint a local representative to Turkey within a month and decide to pay the fine, they will be granted a 25 percent reduction in the fine.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its opposition partner, the Nationalist Movement Party, pressed for the new law, arguing that it would end the insult and harassment of individuals through the use of social media.

The new law also requires the companies to store data from users on local servers.

Those measures are feared to give the government more leverage against critics in a country that already monitors social media closely and has previously blocked access to websites, including Twitter.

The prosecution of individuals due to their social media messages is an everyday occurrence in Turkey. Thousands of people are tried or face legal action on insult charges due to their critical views on social media about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and government officials.

Turkey was in the first half of 2019 at the top of the list of countries demanding the removal of content from Twitter, with more than 6,000 requests.

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