New AKP social media bill to seek 'organized activity' for prosecution of 'misinformation' spread

Ruling AKP officials have said that authorities will seek an “organized group” motive behind social media posts to prosecute online users over allegations of “spreading disinformation and fake news,” BBC Turkish reported on Sept. 1.

Duvar English

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has accelerated its works with regards to the drafting of a new legislation that aims to criminalize “fake news and disinformation” spread on social media.

A meeting that will be chaired by AKP deputy chair Mahir Ünal on Sept. 1 will finalize the draft legislation's framework, BBC Turkish has reported.

AKP officials are reportedly discussing which government body will decide whether a social media post has been shared for the purpose of “spreading misinformation.”

An official body under the name of “Social Media Directorate” will be reportedly set up for the inspection of such posts.

The directorate will initiate a process against a social media post if it is determined to be serving a “specific purpose” of an “organized” group.

AKP sources have reportedly said that the social media activities will be curbed within the limits of the European Convention on Human Rights' relevant articles on “freedom expression.”

BBC Turkish has cited AKP officials as saying that “disinformation” that attempts to create chaos within society is “a form of terror” and that the upcoming legislation will be drafted accordingly.

“What we fight against is not individual posts. There is also disinformation there, but what we focus on is an organized and conscious form of disinformation. For example, someone makes a post against the Turkish Republic state's reputation on the international arena; afterwards a website publishes a news piece [on that]; and then someone else holds a press meeting [about it]. In that case, they are in coordination with each other, as a result of which you face an organized structure. The purpose of this regulation is to prevent such posts,” BBC Turkish quoted an anonymous AKP official as saying.

AKP officials said that Turkey's new law will model German legislation, which mandates that hate speech posted on social media be removed within 24 hours and foresees up to 50 million euros fine for a platform if the relevant post is not taken off. Similar penalties might also be reportedly on the horizon in Turkey.

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

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

AKP executives said that the two laws should not be confused with each other.

“The one that came out last year was for the social media platforms to establish a legal and financial addresse [in Turkey]. The legislation on which we are working now on the other hand will be drafted to prevent disinformation and fake news. As people are responsible for their actions in the real life, they will be also responsible for their actions on social media,” BBC Turkish quoted an AKP official as saying.