Turkey has begun enforcing controversial social media laws, and has reportedly sanctioned Twitter, Periscope and Pinterest.

Ankara imposed advertising bans on the above after they failed to appoint local representatives in Turkey, according to decisions published on Tuesday and reported on by Reuters.

Critics of Turkey’s new law claim it is intended to stifle dissent, as it compels mainly US tech firms to appoint local representatives in Turkey. Failure to do so makes these firms liable for a series of penalties, including the latest move by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK), Reuters reported.

Robust system

Turkey already had a fairly robust system of dealing with tech firms in place.

In 2014 YouTube was banned for two months after it hosted recordings that allegedly indicated corruption in the government of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

A number of Twitter accounts were also closed down in the country.

Another recording was allegedly of high-ranking Turkish security officials discussing a possible military intervention in Syria.

The telecommunications regulator said at the time that the YouTube move was a “precautionary administrative measure”, with Erdogan calling the leaks an act of treason.

YouTube was eventually restored after the country’s Constitutional Court ruled the ban was in contravention of human rights.

Then in 2016 Turkey blocked several major cloud storage services, including Dropbox, Microsoft’s OneDrive and Google Drive, after a militant hacking group began releasing a cache of private emails it claimed were stolen from a senior cabinet minister.

But Turkey’s new law allows local authorities to remove content from platforms, rather than blocking access as they did in the past.

This move has caused concern as citizens increasingly use online platforms after Ankara tightened its grip on mainstream media in the country.

Turkish penalties

Reuters this week reported that Turkey’s latest decisions were revealed in the country’s Official Gazette. It said the advertising bans went into effect from Tuesday.

Twitter, its live-streaming app Periscope, and image sharing app Pinterest were reportedly not immediately available to comment.

And Turkey’s is ramping up the pressure, with Deputy Transport Minister Omer Fatih Sayan reportedly saying that Twitter and Pinterest’s bandwidth would be cut by 50 percent in April and by 90 percent in May.

For the record, Twitter said last month it would shut down Periscope by March due to declining usage.

“We are determined to do whatever is necessary to protect the data, privacy and rights of our nation,” Sayan said on Twitter. “We will never allow digital fascism and disregard of rules to prevail in Turkey,” he said, echoing tough comments by President Erdogan.

Facebook is reportedly joining other tech firms in saying it would appoint a local representative, but added it would withdraw the person if it faced pressure regarding what is allowed on its platform.

YouTube reportedly said a month ago it would abide the new law, which Ankara says enhances local oversight of foreign companies.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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