Turkey Considers Criminalizing Sharing Banned Content on Social Media

Ole Spata/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
Ole Spata/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

The Turkish Parliament is considering an extensive Internet regulation bill that has been expanded this week to include a ban on sharing content prohibited by the state–not just punishment for those who publish the content originally.

Turkish newspaper Radikal reported this week that the bill would expand the power of the nation’s Telecommunications Directorate–which oversees what content remains legal for publication within Turkey online–over not just those who publish information on websites, but those who republish illegal content on social media. Radikal notes that the law would allow the agency overseeing the Internet not just to fine those responsible for publishing devious content, but would allow them to file a criminal complaint that could result in those publishing the content losing their licenses to do so.

How the Directorate will choose what sorts of content will trigger government intrusion into a person’s use of the Internet has not yet been clarified, though the bill has some specific kinds of content it intends to give the agency authority to regulate. According to Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, banned websites and content will have to threaten “national security and public order.” More specifically, Directorate ministers would have to ban content for the sake of “defending the right to live, securing property, ensuring national security and public order, preventing crime, or protecting public health.”

Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule, the Turkish government has increasingly taken hold of regulation of the Internet, though Erdogan has yet to succeed, despite numerous attempts, to shut down outlets like Twitter. (In fact, Erdogan recently joined Twitter himself.) Recently, however, the government issued a list of 68,000 websites to be blocked in the entire country, most for “blasphemy.” This includes the website of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

To prevent his administration from appearing overly repressive, Erdogan’s government recently passed legislation that will provide extremely limited access to the Internet for those who cannot afford paying for access at home. Those who sign up for the program will be allowed access only to sites the Turkish government deems appropriate or educational, for those who have school-aged children in the home. Access to non-educational websites that are not banned in the country will require a fee, though a smaller one than the price of private Internet access.