New Obligations for Social Media Providers in Turkey
The Turkish government has recently passed the new regulations on the legislation concerning social media platforms and online services. The amendment to the Law on the Regulation of Broadcasts via Internet and Prevention of Crimes Committed through Such Broadcasts No. 5651 (“Law”), which has been published in the Official Gazette numbered 31202 on 30.07.2020. Bearing the specific enforcement dates for some terms, many obligations for Social Network Providers shall be enforced as from 01.10.2020. There are many significant new liabilities on social media platforms and online services with over one million daily users to provide extended control over platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
1. Social Network Provider
The definition of the Social Network Provider has been added to the Law as "natural persons or legal entities who enable users to create, view or share contents such as texts, images, recordings, location via the internet for purpose of social interaction shall be a social network provider". It is understood that as many contributors in the social media shall fall into the definition of Social Network Provider, each company should seek their own obligations under the new terms. We are of the opinion that the government is an attempt to control the public contents, which is why it is more likely to apply relevant sanctions to social media companies. The Social Network Providers that fail to comply face steep fines, bandwidth reduction, and advertising bans. Platforms must also store user data in Turkey, which critics worry could expose the data to Turkish authorities and the judiciary.
2. Obligations of Social Network Providers
a. Appointing a Representative
The foreign-based Social Network Providers which have more than one million daily access from Turkey are obligated to appoint at least one representative in Turkey. Social Media Provider must openly publish the contact information of the representative on its website in order to fulfill the requirements of notifications or requests to be sent by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority of Turkey (“Authority”) and any other judicial or administrative authorities and to respond to the applications made by individuals under the Law. Contact details of the representative must be declared to the Authority. In the circumstance where a representative is a natural person, he or she must be a Turkish citizen.
The representative must be authorized to take actions and respond to requests and notifications received from the individuals, the Authority, the Union of Access Providers, and to ensure fulfillment of other obligations stipulated under the Law.
The Social Network Provider, who does not fulfill the obligation to appoint and notify the representative stipulated above shall be sentenced following sanctions respectively;
First Fine: In the event that the obligation is not fulfilled within thirty days after the notification of the Authority, the Social Network Provider is fined TRY 10,000,000 (ten million Turkish Lira) by the Authority.
Second fine: Then, an additional administrative fine of TRY 30,000,000 (thirty million Turkish Lira) will be imposed, if the obligation is not fulfilled within thirty days as of the notification of the first administrative fine.
Third fine: In case of failure to fulfill this obligation after the notification of the second administrative fine, the natural and legal persons who taxpayers resident in Turkey are prohibited from giving an advertisement to and/or entering into the commercial agreement with such Social Network Provider including transferring money to the Social Network Provider in any circumstance.
Fifth sanction: After three months from the date of the advertisement ban, the Authority may apply to the criminal court of peace to reduce the internet traffic bandwidth of the social network provider by fifty percent.
Sixth sanction: If the said obligation is not fulfilled within thirty days from the implementation of the judge's decision regarding the acceptance of the application, the Authority may apply to the criminal court of peace to reduce the internet traffic bandwidth of the social network provider up to ninety percent.
The president of the Authority is authorized to appeal against the decision of the criminal court of peace. The access providers shall be obligated to meet the requirements of the said decision within four hours. In the circumstance where the representative is appointed and notified to the Authority after the sanctions, one-fourth of the administrative fines is collected, the advertising ban is canceled and the court decisions become null.
b. Response Obligation for Removal Requests
Foreign or domestic Network Providers with more than one million daily access are obliged to respond to removal requests pursuant to Articles 9 and 9/A of the Law, which cover the violation of personal and privacy rights. The response must be given no later than forty-eight hours as of the application date. If the request is rejected, the decision shall be justified. Regarding this liability, Social network providers shall complete all necessary procedures until 01.01.2021.
The Social Network Provider who fails to reply such applications shall be fined TRY 5,000,000 (five million Turkish Lira) by the Authority.
c. Biannual Report
Foreign or domestic Social Network Providers who have more than one million daily access shall be also obligated to submit biannual reports prepared in Turkish language containing statistical and categorical information regarding the implementation of the decision to remove the content and/or block access and the applications within the scope of Articles 9 and 9/A of the Law. Such a report shall be also published on the website of the Social Network Provider by disclosing the relevant personal data. Social Network Providers must submit the first report to the Authority and publish it on its website in June 2021.
The Social Network Provider who fails to comply with providing the biannual report shall be fined TRY 10,000,000 (ten million Turkish Lira) by the Authority.
d. Data Localization
Foreign or domestic Social Network providers with at least one million daily access in Turkey must take all the necessary measures to store the data of users in Turkey.
e. Illegal Content
In the event that the content, which is determined to be illegal by a judge or court decision, the Social Network Provider who does not remove the content or block access to it within twenty-four hours despite the notification, is responsible for compensation for the damages incurred. The requesting party is not required to apply to the content provider or file any lawsuit against the content provider at first, in order to seek remedy from the social network provider pursuant to this liability.
According to the new regulations, foreign social network providers shall appoint and notify the representative and comply with the management system with the biannual reports and storing the data of users who access in Turkey. The amendments on the Law gives the government the ability to remove content from the platforms rather than only block access. Considering that the Turkish government is an attempt to control the social media platforms, it is crucial for the company that falls into the Social Network Provider definition to seek its own obligations under the new terms.
Article contact: Bilge Derinbay / E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org