Turkey to Introduce a Law That Will Jail Social Media Users When Posting Fake News

  • The Turkish are looking to control what is posted on social media by threatening users with up to five years in prison.
  • The punishment will come upon those who post fake news, sexual content, and anything that insults religious beliefs.
  • The lawmakers and the proponents of the new law assure the public that there will be no margin for abuse or risk of limiting freedoms.

Social media users in Turkey may soon have to face one to five years of imprisonment punishment for posting disinformation on the internet. This is according to a new law currently under development by the ruling AK Party, which is expected to be presented to the parliament this October. The lawmakers who are drafting this new social media law claim that it was inspired by relevant legal contexts in Germany, England, and France, although the Turkish model is going to be tailored to the country’s style of command.

The obvious problem here is what constitutes “disinformation,” how the state’s authorities interpret the term, and whether or not the new law would be abused for the imprisonment of people who publish posts that go against the ruling political party and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

There have been multiple cases that fuel these fears, and in general, the Turkish government has been very aggressive against its critics after the failed 2016 coup d’etat attempt. Since then, 100,000 people have been arrested and imprisoned in relation to the events, many of whom are thought to be convicted on poor, irrelevant, or even non-existent grounds.

Right now, Tayyip Erdogan’s power is being shaken from people’s fraying tolerance to the man’s flamboyant politics, and the country is steadily getting into deeper crisis on all levels. Getting social media under control is a case of emergency for the local regime, and this law appears like something that would help a lot on that front. However, identifying the users who posted something and connecting them with real identities will be different.

Officially, the AK Party has stated the following to the Hürriyet newspaper through Ali Özkaya, AK Party Deputy Chairman of the Constitutional Commission:

Censorship is not an issue. We have done a law study on social media before. The same discussions took place at that time, ‘censorship’ was said, but it was seen that the intention was not censorship. Many EU countries are experiencing the same threat as Turkey. It is putting pressure on the masses of people, it is also a crime in social media, which is a crime in normal life, but because of fake accounts, there cannot be an effective fight against crime. This should be resolved, everyone’s identity should be known. Millions of people hear about fake news or terrorist crime, disinformation on social media.

As the official explained further, the law will also introduce changes and regulations in the Criminal Code of Turkey, ensuring that freedom of expression won’t be limited in any way. However, those who purposefully disseminate false information, crimes, child sexual abuse, terrorism, or things that constitute an insult to religion will face a sentence of up to five years in prison.

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