Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described social media as a great threat to democracy. His government is looking to pass a law that would criminalize spreading “fake news” and “disinformation.”
“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,” Erdogan said in a video message to a government-organized communications conference in Istanbul.
He added: “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.”
The new legislation would make fake news and disinformation criminal offenses that could land a person in prison for five years. The law would also see the formation of a government agency to regulate speech on social media.
In Turkey, social media is a critical avenue for independent news and dissenting voices because most of the news organizations in the country are controlled by the government.
The Turkish government seems focused on controlling social media. Last year, it passed a law requiring all online platforms with more than one million Turkish users to have legal representation and store user data in Turkey. Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have since complied with the law and established offices in Turkey.