Facebook reps tell Turkish parliament that social media giant decreasing visibility of 'fake news'

Facebook representatives told the Turkish Parliamentary Digital Media Commission that the social media company was not removing content found to be “fake news” but rather decreasing their visibility.

Duvar English

The Turkish Parliamentary Digital Media Commission on Nov. 4 held a meeting with Facebook representatives to discuss possible steps to be taken with regards to social media use in the country.

The meeting was presided by the commission president Hüseyin Yayman from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Facebook representatives told the commission that they were not completely removing the social media content found to be “fake news” or spreading “disinformation.”

Sezen Yeşil, Facebook Public Policy Director for Turkey, said that although the company was giving utmost importance to combatting “disinformation,” it was not completely removing “fake” news stories from the social media site.

“As it is in the job's nature, to be able to continue our business and our profitability, we give the utmost importance to the struggle against disinformation,” said Yeşil.

”If there is a piece of fake news, if there is a decision of disinformation [occuring], we are not removing this news piece; we are decreasing its visibility. We are informing people,” Yeşil was quoted as saying by Sputnik's Turkish service.

The Turkey manager of Facebook, Azzam Alameddin, also took the stage during the meeting, answering a question on the company's removal of a social media post posted by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar earlier this year.

In May, Bayraktar had posted an image on Instagram with regards to Israel's attacks against Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which was removed for violating policies on hate speech.

Alameddin said that the removal of the relevant post was a “mistake of automatization.” “In the Palestine issue, mistakes have occurred. A mistake of automatization occurred, and the hashtag was blocked. This was a mistake of automatization. When the hashtag was blocked, all posts on Al-Aqsa Mosque were automatically blocked,” Alameddin said.

At the time, Bayraktar had slammed Instagram's move, calling it “hypocrisy.”

Erdoğan's ruling AKP is preparing a draft law covering what it says "fake news" and "disinformation" online.

Details of the proposal have not been shared publicly, but various reports say that it foresees the establishment of a Social Media Directorate within the government to monitor online comments. 

The upcoming legislation reportedly seeks up to five years in prison for a social media user over charges of “fake news and disinformation.”

The draft also reportedly proposes establishing a body similar to the media regulator Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK).

The relevant draft legislation is the second concerning social media that has come out of the ruling AKP government in the past few years, with the other forcing social media platforms to establish offices in Turkey.