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Turkey's Ultimatum To Social Media Platforms

January 18, 2021

The Associated Press reports the Turkish government slapped advertising bans on Twitter, Periscope and Pinterest over their non-compliance with a controversial new law that requires social media platforms to appoint legal representatives in the country and to host data within Turkish borders.

Companies that refuse to designate an official representative are subjected to fines, followed by advertising bans and could face bandwidth reductions that would make their platforms too slow to use. The ban is on selling online space for ads, which is what many social media companies make their money from.

The move highlights increased concern and interest in social media platform algorithms' impact on political polarization, unrest and violence.  Requiring legal representation in Turkey means the platforms will need to answer to the body of laws of the sovereign nation state.  Requiring hosting within Turkish borders means adherence to current and future Turkish data center regulations and easier access by Turkish authorities to issue warrants for personal data.

This is of major concern for privacy and democracy advocacy groups, who have been critical of the decision and urge the platforms not to concede to the demands. Users have options to bypass the bans if they go into effect using VPN technology, TOR or TOR-enabled browsers like Brave, but quality VPN services can be expensive and complex for the average user and significantly slow bandwidth.

This illustrates a more extreme form of Government regulation as the United States considers options to reform the controversial Section 230 of the Communications Act passed in 1996. Social Media platforms recently enacted a series of voluntary content reforms and account suspensions following pressure from critics in the United States following the January 6 capitol riots, which could be seen as a proactive move to circumvent stricter policy reforms and greater defamation liability.

License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)


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