The Turkish Telecommunications Authority (BTK) has imposed an advertising ban on social media giant Twitter for failing to comply with a law that tightens control over social media by requiring companies to name a local representative in Turkey, local media reported on Friday.
Turkish Transport and Infrastructure Deputy Minister Ömer Fatih Sayan on Friday said in a series of posts that Twitter was prohibited from accepting new advertisements in Turkey because it had not appointed a local representative.
He added that slashing Twitter’s internet bandwidth would be considered if the social media company doesn’t appoint a representative within three months.
Sayan noted that internet platforms with more than 1 million daily active users in Turkey are obliged to appoint representatives in the country.
He continued to say that within the scope of the article, nine social media representatives, from such networks as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, were appointed and reported to the BTK and that they are held responsible for fulfilling the requests, notifications and official correspondence from judicial and administrative authorities.
Sayan also said that among the duties of the representatives are various obligations such as providing reports every six months and responding to user inquiries in Turkish.
According to the deputy minister, an amendment was made in 2022 to the existing law to strengthen the engagement between social network providers and the relevant authorities.
He was referring to a 2022 amendment stipulating a local representative residing in Turkey and requiring that representative to be a Turkish citizen. According to critics, this change was made to gain leverage over social media giants, which previously appointed non-resident and non-Turkish representatives who could not be intimidated into doing the Turkish government’s bidding.
The deputy minister underlined that an advertising ban was imposed on Twitter for failing to fulfill the obligation of appointing a local representative in line with the new regulations “despite the time stipulated and all the discussions.”
In recent years the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has stepped up its prosecutions of journalists, political opponents and others for criticizing the president and the government online or even just for sharing or liking critical articles on social media.
Freedom House reported in March that thousands of websites are blocked in Turkey, where the government frequently blocks access to websites and orders removal of content that expresses opposing views and that it also has a record of blocking access to popular social media networks at times of political unrest or when it anticipates criticism, as it did in the aftermath of the devastating February 2023 earthquakes.
In a move that obstructed search and rescue efforts, the Turkish government restricted Twitter on multiple internet providers following the deadly earthquakes that killed more than 50,000 people on Feb. 6 in southern and southeast Turkey.
At the time of the restriction, people including those trapped under the rubble were tweeting their locations to ask for help. In some cases, search and rescue teams were directed to the flattened buildings based on information obtained from Twitter users.