On Tuesday, Turkey slammed bans on ads on Twitter, Periscope, and Pinterest for failing to comply with a controversial new law forcing social media outlets to select legal representatives in the region. The law—which civil rights and internet protection advocates say amounts to censorship—forces social media networks to retain officials in Turkey to comply with advertising complaints on their sites.

Companies who fail to nominate an official delegate are subject to fines, followed by restrictions on ads, and could face decreases in bandwidth that will make their websites too sluggish to access.

  • Facebook escaped the ban on advertisements after it revealed on Monday that it had started the process of appointing a legal entity in Turkey, joining LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok, Dailymotion, and the Russian social media platform VKontakte, which had decided to create legal entities in Turkey.
  • “We hope that the necessary steps will be taken quickly by Twitter and Pinterest, which have not yet announced their representatives,” said Omer Fatih Sayan, Deputy Minister for Communications and Infrastructure, following the ban on Twitter ads, the live video streaming service, Periscope and the picture-sharing network, Pinterest, was announced in the Turkish Official Gazette.

There was no immediate comment on the ban on ads from Twitter and Pinterest.

Under the legislation which came into force in October, the local representative of social media networks will be responsible for responding to individual demands to delete material that breaches privacy and personal rights within 48 hours or to include reasons for refusal.

  • The corporation would be responsible for damages if the contents were not deleted or blocked within 24 hours.
  • The bill also demands that social media data be processed in Turkey, raising questions in a world where the government has a record of fighting freedom of speech.
  • Rights organizations said that the decision of multinational tech giants to bow to Turkish pressure and appoint members would lead to censorship and abuses of the right to privacy and access to information in a country where independent media was heavily limited.

The Freedom of Speech Organization estimates that more than 450,000 websites and 42,000 tweets have been blocked in Turkey since October.

Facebook said on Monday that it was committed to the maintenance of freedom of speech and other human rights in Turkey.

Bandwidth cut

The ad ban will be monitored by officials including the BTK, the BDDK, the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey, the Tax Inspection Board (VDK), said Sayan.

Sayan said the bandwidth for Twitter and Pinterest would be decreased by 50% in April and by 90% in May.

  • Twitter and Pinterest had no immediate comment on the ban.

In July the Social Media Legislation Act was initially ratified by Parliament. In the case of an investigation or a complaint related to crimes committed on the web, the bill creates a regulatory structure for social media providers and seeks a responsible representative.

  • It recognizes providers of social networks as actual or legal institutions that authorize users to develop, track or distribute online information, such as text, visual content, voice recordings, and social interaction sites.

Under the regulation, it will be the duty of local representatives of the social media platforms to respond to individual requests for the dismissal or refusal of material which violates privacy and personal rights within 48 hours. If contents are not deleted or blocked within 24 hours, the company will be responsible for damages.

  • Platforms shall issue semi-annual reports on responses to such inquiries.
  • Furthermore, social media details in Turkey are also allowed by statute.

Violence, defamation, and violations of rights are not liberty, but criminality and Turkey are never going to allow anyone to commit such or other crimes under the guise of democracy, emphasized Sayan.

He said, commenting to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that “we’re never going to allow digital fascism and disregard for rules to prevail in Turkey.”

Last week, Erdoğan told us that those who control the data will create “digital dictatorships through the disregard for democracy, law, rights, and freedoms.”

The new law which the government claims strengthen local supervision by international firms, YouTube owned by Alphabet Inc.’s Google, said it would follow the new law a month ago.