Turkish gov’t to create its ‘truth ministry’ amid rising censorship

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The Communications Directorate of the Turkish Presidency has announced that Turkey will create its own fact-checking mechanism to “fight against lies and false facts on social media,” the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported.

According to the directorate’s statement, an online app DOĞRU MU (is it true?), which will be available for IOS and Android systems, is designed to “meet the need to know whether news and information circulating on social media is true or false.”

The new app is the latest move on the part of the Turkish government to increase pressure on social media platforms and censorship on the Internet to spread official views and counter government critics on social media.

The directorate was established by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in September 2018 as an instrument of the new presidential system to control media outlets and direct its propaganda operations.

“It [app] is currently being tested. It will be launched soon and will be an important tool in our fight for the truth,” Fahrettin Altun, head of the directorate, tweeted on the new app.

A new unit within the directorate, the Department of Strategic Communication and Crisis Management, was established in September. One of the duties of the new body as defined in the presidential decree is “Countering any kind of manipulation and disinformation against the Republic of Turkey by identifying psychological operations, propaganda and misinformation.”

The purpose of the new department was described as “ taking under control any kind of manipulation and disinformation against Turkey.”

The Turkish parliament approved an amendment to the law on Internet crimes in July. The bill sets forth progressive sanctions forcing social media platforms with more than 1 million connections a day to appoint a representative in Turkey with whom the Turkish authorities can resolve problems arising from cases of insult, intimidation and violation of privacy.

The regulation obligates social media platforms including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok to respond within 48 hours to complaints about “violations of personal rights” or to judicial orders to remove content. The social network provider that fails to remove offending content within 24 hours after a court ruling will be held responsible for damages incurred by the content.

The law went into effect at the beginning of October, and the first stage of non-compliance sanctions led to authorities imposing millions of lira in sanctions on the companies. As a result of the Turkish government’s pressure, YouTube has decided to appoint a local representative to Turkey in a move designed to comply with the country’s new social media law.

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