Turkey's top appeals court sentences social media user for retweeting insulting post

The Court of Cassation, Turkey's high court of appeals, has found a social media user guilty for retweeting an insulting post about a civil servant. The court's ruling sets a precedent for similar cases.

Duvar English

The Court of Cassation has ruled that a social media user who retweeted an insulting post about a civil servant has committed a crime, state-run TRT Haber reported on Aug. 23.

The court decided that the retweet made it possible for the social media post to reach many more people and thereby increased the effect of the insult.

Those who are found guilty of “insulting” charges are given between three months and two years of imprisonment in Turkey.

TRT Haber quoted legal experts as saying that the high court's decision means those who retweet a post will no longer be able to say the content is solely the responsibility of the author.

Prof. Dr. Ender Ethem Atay, from Hacı Bayram Veli University, said that the high court's decision will set a precedent for other similar cases.

“If a person retweets a news piece on social media, then they give the message that they are of the same opinion as that [news piece]. In this case, if the news piece has an insulting nature, then it means they share the same opinion,” Atay was quoted as saying by TRT Haber.

Atay also said that the upcoming new social media restrictions will push people to pay “much more attention to their attitude and behaviors” on online communication.

“In the Turkish Legal System, a regulation will be brought for criminal offenses on social media. In this way, people will pay much more attention to their attitude and behaviors,” he said.

The ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) is preparing to present a new draft bill to parliament which plans to legalize misinformation and disinformation as criminal activity and implement prison time for the dispersion of fake news on social media.

Prompted by a statement from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that the AKP would launch a "truth operation," the draft bill foresees prison sentences ranging from one to five years to be issued against persons producing and dispersing fake news.

The government also plans to establish a Social Media Directorate to check online comments, in a move which critics say is an effort to curb freedom of speech and access to unbiased news in the country.