Analysts say it is unlikely social media companies will fully comply with a new Turkish law that requires them to remove “disinformation” content and share user data with authorities, raising the specter of potential unrest on the platform ahead of next year’s elections, according to a Reuters report .
The new law requires Facebook, Twitter, Google and others to fully comply with the law by next April or face a possible ad ban and eventually reduce their ability to reach Turkish users, which poses a dilemma for companies ahead of elections scheduled for June.
Analysts and consultants said companies have global privacy standards and are unlikely to violate them in Turkey, as that could set dangerous precedents for other countries looking to exercise control over social platforms.
“Some of these companies are unlikely to comply with the law,” Sinan Ulgen, co-founder of Istanbul Economics, which advises on regulatory and legal matters, told Reuters.
He added that this was “due to onerous requirements and what that might mean for data privacy and confidentiality standards, and also for procedures that could be used to direct other judicial wrongdoing.”
Under the law, which took effect this week, companies must share users’ information with authorities if they post content that constitutes crimes, including misleading information.
Social media companies should appoint Turkish representatives. Companies will face reducing their Turkish bandwidth usage by up to 90% immediately upon a court order if the representative fails to provide the information to the authorities, which means reducing the number of users who can use their services.
Critics of the law say it could tighten the government’s grip on social media in Turkey.
The AKP and nationalist allies supported the law. The opposition has dubbed it the “censorship law” and says it could affect parliamentary and presidential elections in June.
The law has been criticized mainly for imposing prison sentences on social media users and journalists who spread “disinformation”, but it is also based on legislation imposed on social media companies in 2020, with stricter measures.
For example, companies will be “directly responsible” for “illegal” content if you do not remove it within 4 hours after the authorities request.
Yaman Akdeniz, an electronic rights expert and professor at Istanbul Bilgi University, said that social media companies have so far been able to comply with the 2020 law, by setting up small business entities in Turkey that can easily withdraw if pressured.
He added that those laws were a “soft transition” but the government has now made it more serious with the new bill.
Companies may be fined up to 3% of their global revenue if they do not comply with the law, in addition to banning ads.
Akdeniz said authorities may not impose penalties such as an immediate ban on businesses, but start with smaller steps such as fines. However, he said, the prospect of tougher measures is a constant threat to businesses.
Twitter declined to comment on the law to Reuters. Facebook’s Meta Platforms, Google’s Alphabet, and TikTok did not respond to requests for comment.
Sezin Yesil, Meta’s director of public policy for Turkey and Azerbaijan, told a parliamentary committee in June that there were doubts about how the laws would be implemented.
Pelin Kozy Karaman, Google’s director of government relations and public policy in Turkey, told the committee that it had made “maximum effort” to comply with the 2020 law.
Under the new law, network service providers such as Meta-owned messaging app WhatsApp, which is ubiquitous in Turkey, are also required to set up a local company. The law places them under the authority of the Information and Communication Technology (ICTA), which can prevent them if they work without permission.