Fighting disinformation or censorship?

The AK Party is preparing to implement a new regulation on social media following the October 2020 law that forces social media companies such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook to set up representative offices in Turkey. Work began after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that social media subjects the public to the “terror of lies” and a new regulation is needed.

The goal of the new regulation is to fight disinformation. To do so, the AK Party first examined similar efforts by the European Union, notably Germany. A punishment of up to five years in prison will be imposed on those who create fake news on social media and up to two years who spread it, according to the draft law. An inspection mechanism is planned to identify those who make and spread such news. The legislative proposal will be submitted to the Parliament for debate once it is back in session on October 1.

The censorship debate

The regulation has sparked a censorship debate both among the public opinion and in the political arena. Some argue that the goal of the legislation is to silence the opposition. The Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman, Onursal Adiguzel, said what the government calls fighting disinformation is in fact silencing dissent. He also stated that the CHP will oppose all kinds of regulation aiming to silence and suppress citizens, journalists, and independent media platforms.

“The regulation claims to be within the scope of fighting disinformation on social media,” Adiguzel said. “Just like the controversial social media regulation passed by parliament last year, the AK Party uses German regulations today to legitimize tools aimed at censoring the media.” He also complained that the legislative work is bypassing the Parliament’s relevant Digital Platforms Commission, of which he is a member.

Forest fires bring social media to the agenda again

Calls for help to the international community to fight wildfires using the #HelpTurkey hashtag on social media is again sparking social media debates. The government wing responded strongly stating that Turkey is being depicted as powerless by these campaigns. The Presidency’s Communications Director, Fahrettin Altun, responded to the campaign, supported by many well-known figures and celebrities, with #StrongTurkey hashtag on his twitter account. Altun claimed the #HelpTurkey campaign was based abroad and launched with an intention to make the government look weak.

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