ANKARA: A pro-government media outlet in Turkey claimed on Friday that Twitter is set to appoint a representative as required by the country’s social media law to avoid approaching bandwidth restrictions.
If Twitter fails to comply with the law, its internet bandwidth in Turkey will be reduced by an initial 50 percent in April and then by 90 percent after a month.
To what extent this new legal step will change the company’s community standards is unknown. According to Twitter’s latest transparency report, Ankara makes more requests to ban users and remove content than any other country. Of the total tweets that were withheld internationally last year, nearly 43 percent originated in Turkey.
The social media law, which was adopted last July in Ankara, has been criticized as being a “censorship law” that might threaten free expression and media freedom. Digital platforms are also obliged to store users’ data in the country, sparking debate about the delicate balance between censorship and user privacy.
The local representative will be responsible for responding to individual requests to take down controversial content within 48 hours. If the flagged tweets are not removed or blocked, the social media company would be held liable for damages that could occur.
YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Dailymotion, TikTok and the Russian social media site VKontakte have already set up legal entities in Turkey. Since January, Ankara has imposed an advertisement ban on Twitter for not complying with the new law.
“Social media posts that are considered as a crime by the court orders will be removed following this move,” Samet Burak Sari, a digital media expert, told Arab News.
“But Twitter will be on the side of its users under any possible conflict with the authorities considering the biased nature of the judiciary in Turkey.”
In February, the country’s interior minister, Süleyman Soylu, called arrested Bogazici University students “perverts” and the tweet was marked as “hateful conduct” by Twitter, which drew harsh criticism from Ankara.
There are approximately 13.6 million Twitter users in Turkey as the social media platform has become a significant source of information for many citizens as the mainstream media is almost completely dominated by pro-government outlets.
“Notwithstanding its political dimensions and the current realities about the judicial system in Turkey, appointing a legal representative is a good move,” Sari said.
“It is understandable that the users will be concerned about possible censorship on their posts, but I am pretty sure that Twitter will support its community rules under any conflict with the judicial cases.”
In June 2020, Ankara criticized Twitter for suspending more than 7,000 accounts, accusing the social media company of acting as a “propaganda machine” with “political and ideological” motivations.
Twitter claimed these “fake” accounts were opened to support political narratives that favor the ruling government in Turkey. According to Twitter, the accounts were managed by a central authority to post some 37 million tweets to promote the ruling Justice and Development Party and criticize the opposition.