Regulatory & Compliance

THE LAW ON AMENDMENT TO THE PRESS LAW AND FURTHER LAWS HAS ENTERED INTO FORCE AS OF 18.10.2022

The Law on Amendment to the Press Law and Further Laws (“Law”) has been on the agenda of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey for a while. The Law includes regulations governing internet and social media journalism, which entered into force after publication in the Official Gazette. (18.10.2022) Thus, many new regulations that affect internet and social media journalism, even including penal sanctions, came to the fore.

1. Developments Relating to the Press Law
Within the framework of the new regulations, website news content producers will now be under the obligation to keep the news they have published for 2 years. The obligation in question also stipulates that the news to be kept must be complete and accurate. It is also stated that if a news is under investigation or prosecution, the news should be kept until the trial has been completed, even if the storage period of 2 years has expired.
In the regulations, innovations about the application, cancellation and conditions of the press card are also included. Also, on news websites, the workplace address, trade name, e-mail address, contact phone and electronic notification address of the responsible manager of the news website, as well as the name and address information of the hosting provider, may be accessed directly from the home page of the users in their own internet environment and under the communication heading. If a change is made in the published news content, it has been made mandatory to include the update date and publication date of the content.
Regarding the refutations, if the aggrieved person submits a refutation about an article on the news website, the manager in charge will publish the relevant article within one day at the latest, without making any changes. If the news content of the aforementioned refutation, is removed from publication by any court decision or the content is removed by itself, this will not affect the publication of the refutation and the refutation will be published for 24 hours on the main page, for a week.

2. Developments Relating to Penal Code of Turkey
The most striking innovation among the amendments is the “crime of public dissemination misleading information”, which is a new type of crime introduced to Article 217/A of the Penal Code
of Turkey. In the aforementioned regulation, which came into force since 18.10.2023, a person who publicly disseminates false information regarding the internal and external security, public order and general health of the country in a way that is suitable for disrupting the public peace with the intent of creating distress, fear or panic among the public, shall be sentenced to a penalty of imprisonment for a term of one year to three years. Moreover, if the perpetrator spreads misleading information publicly and conceals his identity or commits this crime within the context of an organization’s activities, the crime will be considered as a qualified case and the penalty foreseen will be increased by half from one to three years.
What kind of news has the purpose of creating fear, distress and panic is left to the discretion of the judicial authority, and no decisive regulation has been foreseen. For this reason, if a person is tried on suspicion of committing the crime in question, an evaluation will be made by the judicial authority according to the characteristics of the concrete case.

3. Developments Relating to Law on Regulation of Publications on the Internet and Combating Crimes Committed By Means of Such Publication
Article 8 of the Law on Regulation of Publications on the Internet and Combating Crimes Committed By Means of Such Publication (“Internet Law”) already regulates the situations in which it can be decided to remove the content or block access. According to aforementioned regulation, it could be decided to block access in the presence of certain crimes in the Penal Code of Turkey or in the presence of crimes in the Law on Crimes Committed Against Atatürk. However, with the additional article made to the regulation, the crimes indicated in article 27/1 and article 27/2 of the State Intelligence Services and National Intelligence Organization Law are also included in this scope.
Consequently, access to the content may be blocked if information and documents related to the duties and activities of the National Intelligence Organization (‘MIT’) are published or if the identities, offices, duties and activities of MIT members and their families are revealed. On the other hand, additional regulations have been introduced to the activities of social network providers which will be effective as of 13.10.2022. Before talking about the changes made in this context, it would be beneficial to talk about the definition of the social network provider. A social network provider can be defined as a natural or legal person that allows users to create, view or share data such as text, images, sound, location on the internet for the purpose of social interaction. Some criteria have been brought to the obligations of social network providers to appoint a representative, which is currently included in Article 4 of the Law, and it is indicated that if the representative is a real person, it is an obligation for this person to be a Turkish citizen.
In addition, if the daily access of the social network provider from Turkey is more than ten million; the real or legal person representative determined by the foreign social network provider shall be fully authorized and responsible in technical, administrative, legal and financial terms, without prejudice to the responsibilities of the social network provider. However, it has also been mentioned that if the determined representative is a legal person, the representative must be a branch established directly by the social network provider as a capital company.
In the regulations, the scope of reporting and transparency of reporting by social network providers to the Information Technologies and Communication Authority (“Authority”) has been expanded and it is stated that the reporting should also include information on title tags, algorithms for highlighted or reduced content, advertising policies and transparency policies. In addition, in connection with the principle of transparency, social network providers must henceforth act in accordance with the principle of accountability.
Additively to reporting, accountability and the obligation to produce transparent content, other obligations of social network providers are also covered and detailed. Accordingly, social network
providers;
– In the event that people learn about the content that endanger the safety of life and property and if it is a non-delayable case, it will be obliged to share this content and the information about the creator of the content with the authorized law enforcement units.

– It will be responsible for creating a crisis plan for extraordinary situations affecting public safety and public health and notifying it to the Information Technologies and Communication Authority.
– It will be responsible for establishing an effective application mechanism in cooperation with the Authority for the removal of title tags and featured content by warning method.
– It will be obliged to comply with the regulations regarding user rights to be made by the Authority in order to protect the rights of its users.
– It will be obliged to provide all kinds of explanations including the institutional structure, information systems, algorithms, data processing mechanisms and commercialism, and the information and documents requested by the Authority within three months at the latest.

In the event that social network providers violate their obligations stated above, a sanction has been foreseen against them by the Authority and it has been regulated that an administrative fine up to 3% of their global turnover in the previous calendar year may be imposed on them. In addition to the sanctions, if the content removal and access blocking decisions are not complied with, the social network provider’s internet traffic bandwidth may be reduced by up to 90%. Also, it can be decided to impose administrative fines from ten thousand Turkish lira to one hundred thousand Turkish lira.

Conclusion
With the enactment of the Law on Amendment to the Press Law and Further Laws, many regulations have been introduced to determine the scope of obligations regarding both internet journalism and social media celebrities or content providers, and the boundaries of responsibilities have been drawn in more detail. The “crime of public dissemination misleading information” and some provisions (except internet journalism and social network providers) containing prohibitions and limitations added to the Penal Code of Turkey are deemed to have entered into force as of 18.10.2022, when the Law was published in the Official Gazette. Regulations regarding internet journalism and social network providers in the regulations included in the Law will enter into force on 01.04.2023.

Elif Göktepeliler, Attorney At Law

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