Turkey to introduce prison sentences for fake news

The Turkish government is working on a law to fight disinformation online, and to criminalise social media disinformation, state broadcaster TRT Haber reported on Friday.

“Disinformation is a threat that would come back and hit all of us like a boomerang,” deputy chairman of ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) parliamentary group Mahir Ünal told TRT.

“The European Union has two red lines for online media, anti-terror efforts and fighting disinformation, because disinformation is as dangerous as terrorism,” Ünal continued.

The AKP has been working on the proposal for close to eight months, he said.

The new law will include articles to issue prison sentences for knowingly distributing false information online. It will also regulate online journalism, TRT said.

Representatives of social media platforms will be treated as natural persons, instead of as legal entities under current laws.

Turkey’s social media laws were updated in July 2021 to require social media companies to open offices inside the country and appoint representatives who were Turkish citizens.  Those who refuse are facing millions of liras in fines, bandwidth throttling, and possible bans.

In September, AKP officials told BBC that the new law to combat fake news would “focus on concerted efforts rather than individuals”.

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