Social media is one of the main threats to democracy, claims Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with regulating new changes.
- The autocratic leader’s government, already one of the world’s leading jailers of journalists, plans to pursue legislation to criminalize spreading news considers to be fake and disinformation online. But Rights groups said the proposed changes would further tighten restrictions on free speech in Turkey.
- Mr. Erdogan said, ‘Social media, which was described as a symbol of freedom when it first appeared, has turned into one of the main sources of threat to today’s democracy.’ in a video message to a government-organized communications conference in Istanbul.
- ‘We try to protect our people, especially the vulnerable sections of our society, against lies and disinformation without violating our citizens’ right to receive accurate and impartial information,’ Erdogan added.
- As Turkey passed a law last year requiring social media platforms with more than a million users to maintain a legal representative to store data in the country, many major firms as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have since set up offices in Turkey. Though most of Turkey’s major media companies are under the control of the government, leaving social media is an essential outlet for dissenting voices.
- The new legislation would make the dissemination of “disinformation” and “fake news” criminal offenses punishable by up to five years in prison, reports pro-government media. It also would establish a social media regulator.
- Turkey ranks 153rd out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2021 press freedom index.
- ‘All means possible are used to eliminate pluralism,” the press freedom organization says.
- ‘In this ‘New Turkey’ marked by Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hyper-presidency, one in which arbitrary decisions by magistrates and government agencies are the new normal, internet censorship has reached unprecedented levels.’
Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net September report characterized Turkey as “not free,” noting the removal of content critical of the government and the prosecution of people posting “undesirable” commentary on social media.