İbrahim Kalın, spokesperson for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said the Turkish government does not plan to completely block access to social media but rather regulate it, after Erdoğan signaled a crackdown on several platforms last week, the T24 news website reported on Thursday.
“There are no plans to shut down social media; however, there is consensus on the fact that it needs to be regulated,” Kalın said in an interview. “This is a field that needs to be guided by the principle that whatever is a crime in real life is also a crime online.”
Kalın added that the fast changing nature of the digital world makes it hard to regulate and that there are no international legal standards on the matter.
Kalın claimed that their plans are not intended to silence dissent. “There are dissenting voices in real life. That can be the case in the digital world, too, as long as it does not involve lies, libel or terrorist propaganda,” he said.
“Above all, these are commercial entities,” Kalın said, referring to social media providers. “They make money but do not pay taxes. Just as there are penalties in the real world if you evade taxes, it is also a crime if you do not pay taxes for the money you make in the digital world.”
“For years I have talked to representatives of these companies, calling on them to open an office here [in Turkey] and to be fiscally accountable. Up until today, they have refused,” Kalın said, adding that the new regulation will have a financial aspect.
Last week Erdoğan vowed to rein in social media platforms or shut them down after his daughter and son-in-law were reportedly insulted online. Erdoğan’s remarks specifically targeted YouTube, Twitter and Netflix.
Twitter has complied with Turkish court orders to restrict many accounts including journalists critical of the government, and the country’s media watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), already enjoys significant censorship powers over online streaming services.
Netflix recently took a politically sensitive episode of the thriller series “Designated Survivor” off the air in Turkey, at the demand of Turkish authorities.