A new bill to regulate social media submitted to Turkey’s parliament aims to prevent and punish crimes rather than restricting freedoms, said a Turkish social media expert.

“When the legislative proposal is examined, it is seen that there is no regulation resulting in restrictions on human rights and freedoms. On the contrary, it is aimed at preventing and punishing crimes such as insults, swearing, sexual abuse, obscenity, gambling, fraud, terrorist propaganda, fake news, and disinformation,” Deniz Unay, a social media expert, told Anadolu Agency.

Unay stressed that some objections which claimed that the bill will restrict freedoms are “irrelevant and unfounded in the face of international legislation and practice.”

He went on to say that any behavior that constitutes a crime in social life is also a crime on social media platforms and it is necessary to act accordingly.

“The most serious and dangerous situations that occur in social media platforms are fake news, hate crimes, disrupting the public order, and disinformation,” Unay said.

Underscoring that Turkey began to make sustainable and necessary arrangements, he said these arrangements are planned to protect the democratic rights and freedoms of individuals and institutions.

He also cited Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.

“Under Article 10/2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, it is already accepted that the right to freedom of expression can be restricted in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary,” Unay said.

Underlining that the liberties granted to individuals also give them responsibilities, he said those responsibilities restrict people from posting on social media in a way that will disrupt public order.

Large social media providers to set up offices in Turkey

The new bill would set a formal definition of social media providers, and its foremost aim is to designate a responsible representative for investigations and legal proceedings relating to offenses on social media.

If the bill passes, it will require large social media providers to set up an office in Turkey.

Under the bill, foreign-based social network providers that have more than one million visitors a day in Turkey will assign at least one representative in the country.

“There will be financial audit opportunities, and the companies have to fulfill their tax and financial responsibilities,” Unay said.

“This amendment will be useful not only in terms of criminal proceedings but also in civil proceedings, in terms of obtaining and presenting evidence. It will also contribute to the right to legal remedies,” he added.

Highlighting that providers would also take necessary measures to store the data of users in Turkey inside the country, he added that the new bill also ensures the fulfillment of financial obligations and the right for data to be forgotten.

Under the bill, administrative fines for providers who fail to meet their obligations would also be raised to encourage compliance.

Under the bill, social network providers would have 48 hours to respond to appeals to remove offensive content or block content due to privacy.

If they do not respond in 48 hours, they can be fined 5 million Turkish liras ($730,000). If they do not implement the decision to remove or block the content, they could be fined 10 million Turkish liras ($1.4 million).

Working to fulfill a recent pledge by Turkey’s leaders, the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party on Tuesday submitted a new bill to regulate social media.

Turkish leaders have long pushed for reforms, and recently pressed the issue after insults of family members were posted online.

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