AKP considers mandating 10-year prison sentence for hate crime on social media

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Social media users in Turkey could face up to 10 years behind bars for refusing to delete posts that include elements of a hate crime under a new law to be proposed in October by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), local media reported, citing a journalist.

Hürriyet daily columnist Abdülkadir Selvi on Tuesday wrote that the AKP was considering the “Singapore model” for the new social media law, which stipulates a 10-year prison sentence for those users who refuse to delete social media posts found by the relevant government body to have included elements of a hate crime.

As part of Singapore’s anti-fake news law, which came into force in October 2019, the government decides whether the content in social media posts is “safe,” Selvi said.

“In the law that the government is expected to propose, a board to be formed would determine unsafe content and decide which news is lies or aimed at manipulation. To do that, they are initially focused on determining the criteria for fake news and [forming] a board that will decide on it,” he said.

The AKP has been examining social media legislation of such countries as France, the United Kingdom and Germany, mainly focusing on the German model, Selvi added.

According to the columnist, the government’s new law aims to prevent the manipulation of the masses by way of unfounded news on social media, as the country readies for the next general election in 2023.

The AKP government has been relentless in its crackdown on critical media outlets, particularly after a coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

As an overwhelming majority of the country’s mainstream media has come under government control over the last decade, Turks have taken to social media and smaller online news outlets for critical voices and independent news.

Turks are already heavily policed on social media, and many have been charged with insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or his ministers, or criticism related to foreign military incursions or the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

In July 2020 parliament passed legislation at Erdoğan’s request imposing far-reaching restrictions on social media platforms with more than 1 million daily visitors in Turkey.

The law, which stipulated progressive sanctions forcing the platforms to appoint a representative in Turkey with whom the Turkish authorities can resolve problems arising from cases of insult, intimidation or violation of privacy, was widely criticized by human rights defenders and critics including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and the UN.

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