During the dokuz8TV's Agenda Special program Gürkan Özturan hosted lawyer Gülşah Deniz-Atalar who is also the Vice President of Ankara Bar Association IT, Technology & Law Council. During the program Deniz-Atalar evaluated the details of the recently proposed 'social media regulations' that has finally arrived in the parliament, warning "this bill will cause digital memory to be erased."

Lawyer Gülşah Deniz-Atalar participated in the dokuz8TV's Agenda Special hosted by Gürkan Özturan, evaluating the details of the social media regulations bill proposed in the parliament yesterday by AKP deputy Özlem Zengin who was the former chief advisor to AKP chair & President Erdoğan between 2016-2018. Lawyer Deniz-Atalar said "this is a dangerous draft bill, it contains clauses that might be subject to misuse in coming periods" drawing attention to the concerns over the digital platforms bill.


Lawyer Deniz-Atalar said, "the draft bill consists of 9 clauses in total and 2 of those are about implementation so there are 7 clauses effectively. There is a call to amend the 'Law Numbered 5651 the Internet Publications Regulation' in it. They propose 'there shall be an addition to the second clause introducing definition of social network providers, which includes real or institutional persons that will be required to host users' content on the internet as text, audio, location etc. for interaction purposes and to monitor and share this data.' Afterwards the providers -if located outside of the country- are informed of certain monetary penalties and changes; we can see an increase in the fines. In addition to the 8th and 9th clauses of the Law No. 5651, which is on access blocking decisions, there is now included content removal as well. Furthermore even the compensation requirements which might emerge from any user's actions on the platforms is also put on the shoulders of the platforms For example if I tweet something and this causes a penalty and companesation is ruled, Twitter will be required to pay 5 million TL."


Lawyer Deniz Atalar announced "as part of the recent proposal, with an additional clause the non-local social network providers are required to open local offices in Turkey and appoint a Turkish national as a representative; if they fail to comply with this requirement they would be subject to monetary fines, advertisement bans and bandwidth narrowing steps introduced."


The proposed bill had initially been mentioned as part of Coronavirus Economic Relief Package in April. Pointing to the ban on online advertisements, Lawyer Deniz-Atalar says "the ban on advertisements if the platforms do not fully comply with these new requirements is a major intervention into small and medium enterprise businesses that heavily rely on online advertising to promote their businesses especially during the pandemic days. Already these businesses are suffering at great levels under coronavirus measures and now they might be subjected to a restriction on promoting their businesses online."


Lawyer Deniz-Atalar referred to the bandwidth narrowing measure as well, "the proposed bill makes it compulsory to keep users' data on servers located in the country and in case of non-compliance with it, there is a clause which suggests 'necessary measures would be taken' that includes narrowing of the bandwidth. this practically means blocking users' access to the platforms; and in this case simply saying 'I would use VPN' does not mean anything because you would not be able to access the crucial information you are looking for. This is going to result in cleansing of the digital archives."


The proposed bill introduces clauses on removal of content in addition to the already existing 'access blocking' measures that have been causing problems in terms of free expression and right to access to information & media freedom especially in recent years. Lawyer Gülşah Deniz-Atalar comments on this development, "primarily the social network providers are defined in such a manner that almost the whole internet web is included in this. This means, not only social media platforms but all kinds of digital networks which might allow user to user interaction could be included in this definition, including the messaging applications, forums or other platforms. All these platforms are called as 'social network providers' which is too wide a definition and brings a potentially arbitrary implementation possibility, which is highly problematic." Deniz-Atalar continues, "through this proposal they are expecting the foreign businesses to comply with the Notification Law available in Turkey. There is a clause which focuses on 'e-mail notification' which is an irregular form of legal notification according to Turkey's laws, equating it to international notification standards counting it as 'regular'. I cannot approve of such a clause as a lawyer. Furthermore this is linked to the content removal clause. Roughly it can be said as this is an attempt to initiate censorship to erase social memory on digital spaces. If the content removal order is not implemented, then the platform would be given monetary fine of 5 million TL per content."


Lawyer Deniz-Atalar continued to speak on the recently introduced right to be forgotten, "governing AKP's search for how to win over the 'Generation Z' has now come to this, they are attempting to present them a 'cleansed' internet as if nothing has happened. They have introcued 'content removal' into every clause, which shows that it is turning into a law proposal to erase social memory and remove anything from digital spaces including the politicians' lives which is subject to public discussion, and directly impacting the media freedom. Through this proposal, any significant event from years ago might be deleted from the internet. Are we going to register anything on 'web archive' to make sure it stays there then? Which would ironically lead to the web archive platform to get too popular, having to open local offices in Turkey and fall into the same category."


Lawyer Deniz-Atalar, "the proposal introduces monetary fines that start with 10 million TL initially, then eventually to ban advertisements on the platform if they insist on not opening local offices in Turkey and appoint a local representative. This is introduced in order to punish platforms by cutting their ad-revenues but this is also going to be a punishment for small and medium enterprises. Almost 60% of the SMEs in Turkey are advertising on Facebook to promote their businesses, attract customers and they are trying to digitize their work further, especially under the coronavirus pandemic."


Asking whether or not the business sector was consulted while this bill was being drafted, Lawyer Deniz-Atalar says "this is an intervention into trade and business life. As it is, this bill is against free expression, media freedom and business life. Currently they might be unaware of it but the influencers on platforms like Instagram or Youtube will be suffering terribly if this bill is passed. Following the ban on advertisements there are clauses on the bandwidth narrowing and if implemented fully this will all lead to erasing of the digital memory and cleansing of the internet. Then even using VPN will be ineffective for the users because they will not be able to access the quality content. This draft bill is dangerous."