Turkey Tightens Social Media Control After Erdogan Cries Foul

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Turkey’s parliament gave authorities new powers to tighten their grip on social media, delivering on a pledge made by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who’s complained of offensive postings.

Lawmakers on Wednesday approved the law that was hastily brought to parliament after the Turkish president said “order” must be restored, citing what he described as insults over the birth of his eighth grandchild.

Critics of the legislation say it will make freedom of expression more difficult than it already is. Turkey already monitors social media closely and has previously halted access to websites, including Twitter. The country ranks behind Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Azerbaijan in internet freedom, according to Freedom House, a U.S.-based non-governmental organization focusing on democracy and human rights.

The new law makes it possible for authorities to slash websites’ internet traffic bandwidth by 90%, should they fail to abide by court or judge requests to remove content. Firms are also required to have a Turkey representative and store some user data locally. Compliance failures can result in fines as high as 1 million liras ($144,000).

“Today’s vote is the latest, and perhaps most brazen attack on free expression in Turkey,” Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher, said by email. The new law will “significantly increase the government’s powers to censor online content and prosecute social media users.”

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