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Turkey bans adverts on social media refusing to comply with new law

Twitter logo displayed on a phone screen, in Ankara, Turkey on December 08, 2020 [Aytaç Ünal / Anadolu Agency]
Twitter logo displayed on a phone screen, in Ankara, Turkey on December 08, 2020 [Aytaç Ünal / Anadolu Agency]

Turkey has imposed advertising bans on a number of social media companies due to their refusal to comply with a new law requiring them to assign legal representatives in the country. The bans were imposed today on Twitter, Pinterest and Periscope.

The move follows a landmark but controversial law that was approved last year which obliges social media companies to appoint legal representatives in Turkey in order to deal with any complaints or cases regarding content on their platforms. The law is clear that if a company does not comply, it will be subject to fines, then advertising bans, followed by a potential reduction in their bandwidth, which would slow them down online.

Companies such as LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok, Dailymotion and the Russian site VKontakte have already started to comply with the law. Facebook escaped an advertising ban by announcing yesterday that it is in the process of appointing a legal entity in Turkey.

"We hope that Twitter and Pinterest, which have still not announced their representatives, will quickly take the necessary steps," said the head of Turkey's Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK), Omer Fatih Sayan. "It is our last wish to impose bandwidth reductions for social networks which insist on not complying with their obligations."

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In November, Turkey showed that it was serious in its ruling on social media companies when it slapped a $1.2 million fine on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and others after they failed to appoint their legal representatives.

Under the law, which also requires social media data to be stored in Turkey, the representatives of those companies are expected to remove content violating privacy and personal rights within 48 hours if there are no suitable grounds for it. If such content is not removed, then the companies may be liable for damages.

Concern has been raised that the new law could limit the extent to which social media operates in Turkey, and that it could amount to censorship. The Turkish government has tried to regulate social media use in the past, resulting in the detention of hundreds of users last year over "misleading" posts.

The clampdown on social media companies also comes after the Turkish government and military switched their messaging system away from the popular WhatsApp to the Turkish app BiP, over concerns of privacy and the sharing of user data.

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