On 26/05/2022, a proposal numbered 2/4471 on the Amendment of the Press Law and Other Laws, consisting of 40 articles, was submitted to the Presidency of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. Justification for this proposal was stated as internet leaving other mass media tools behind and bringing the concept of "social media" to the center of the public, facilitating news and information access, providing fast access and wide sharing and a suitable environment for 'fake news and disinformation'.
If the proposal in question is approved, internet news websites will be included in the scope of the Press Law w. No. 5187 and will be considered as periodical publications. In the proposal, similar to the periodical publications, submission of declarations, criminal and legal liability, right of correction and reply, the judicial procedure and the authority the declarations will be submitted to, are regulated for internet news websites.
In addition, the press card practice, which is currently regulated under the Press Card Regulation, is planned to be added to the Press Law. With this change, it is aimed that the employees of internet news websites can also obtain press cards and work in accordance with the provisions of the Press Law.
Further, it is proposed to make it mandatory to have the news websites’ commercial information and the hosting provider’s information clearly on the website, and to specify contents’ first publication date with a method that will not allow the date to be changed. Thus, it is aimed to make date determinations possible in terms of responsibilities arising from the content.
Moreover, it is regulated that the contents published on the internet news websites shall be kept for two years, and if it is subject to investigation and prosecution, until the conclusion of this process.
With the proposal, internet news websites are also included in the legislation regarding the publication of official announcements. Parallel to this, the term "internet news website" is added to the different regulations related to newspapers.
An independent type of crime is added to the fifth chapter "Crimes Against Public Peace" of the Turkish Penal Code w. No. 5237, with the title "spreading misleading information to the public". For the crime, intent, false information, special qualifications and suitability for action will be sought. As a punishment for this crime, imprisonment from 1 year to 3 years is proposed.
With an article to be added to the Law No. 5651, known as the Internet Law, it is regulated that the Access Providers Association may send their notifications related to the decisions to remove the content and/or block access, to the relevant content or hosting provider’s email address.
In addition, crimes related to state intelligence are added to the catalog crimes for which the decision to remove the content and/or block access can be made regarding the content on the internet, and the distinction between domestic and foreign content and hosting providers regarding to remove the content and/or block access decisions is removed. In addition, if the decision to remove the content and/or block access is not fulfilled, natural and legal persons in Turkey will be prohibited to provide advertisement for up to six months to a foreign social network provider, and to establish a new contract with a foreign social network provider and transfer money related to the contract; and further, the relevant court will be able to reduce the bandwidth of internet traffic by fifty percent until the decision is fulfilled.
Regarding social network providers, the representatives of the providers whose daily access from Turkey is more than one million will be required to be a resident of Turkey, besides the existing obligation to be a Turkish citizen.
If the proposal passes, the legal entity representatives of social network providers with daily access to more than ten million from Turkey will have to be a branch in the form of a capital company. The natural or legal person representative shall be fully authorized and responsible technically, administratively, legally and financially, without prejudice to the responsibilities of the social network provider. In addition, if the information related to the catalog crimes is not provided to the judicial authorities upon request, the internet bandwidth of the provider may be reduced by ninety percent. Segregation of services specific to children is also regulated.
Finally, amendments to the Electronic Communications Law No. 5809 are made regarding the internet-based services known as Over-The-Top (OTT), which are not subject to a specific legislation in Turkey, which makes way for the Information Technologies and Communications Authority to establish necessary regulations and relevant measures.
Authors: Hatice Ekici Tağa, Sümeyye Uçar, Şevin Nural