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Source: US Global Legal Monitor

(Oct. 8, 2020) On October 1, 2020, a legal provision entered into force requiring all domestic and foreign social network providers that serve more than one million users in Turkey (“qualified SNPs”) to appoint a domestic representative. The operative provision is contained in supplemental article 4 of Law No. 5651 on the Regulation of Publications on the Internet and Combatting Crimes Committed by Means of Such Publications. SNPs that fall within the scope of the new rule include popular services such as Twitter and Facebook.

Under regulatory “procedures and principles” (P&P) governing the application of the new rule issued by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA) on October 2, 2020, an SNP’s in-country representative must be a Turkish citizen or a legal person registered in Turkey and must be authorized to accept service of documents for the purposes of Law No. 5651. SNPs must also publish on their websites the contact information for their representatives in a way that is easily accessible by users. (P&P arts. 6, 8(1).)

In addition to accepting service of documents from ICTA, a representative’s duties include responding to requests for the removal of content on the grounds of articles 9 and 9/A of Law No. 5651. Qualified SNPs must accept removal requests from individuals that are written in the Turkish language and provide a reasoned response within 48 hours. Turkish-language requests must be answered in Turkish. Every six months, SNPs are required to report to the ICTA statistical information regarding such individual requests and its compliance with removal or blocking decisions made by ICTA or the courts in accordance with Law No. 5651. (P&P arts. 7, 10, 11.)

Supplemental article 4(5) also requires qualified SNPs to “take the necessary measures so as to store in Turkey the user data of users located in Turkey.” The P&P details this requirement, providing that SNPs should prioritize localizing in Turkey “basic user data” and “data related to matters that ICTA may notify the SNP of” under supplemental article 4(5). SNPs must include information on the data localization measures that they have undertaken in their semiannual reports. (P&P art. 12(2)–(3).)

Qualified foreign-based SNPs that do not appoint a representative and notify the ICTA of the appointment are subject to a five-step sanctions regime, with the severity of each step increasing in the face of continued noncompliance.

Other provisions of Law No. 5651 enable ICTA to order internet service providers to remove or block online content in cases related to listed crimes, threats to public order or security, or other pressing and immediate dangers. Moreover, the law compels the removal or blocking of content by courts in cases concerning the violation of personality and privacy rights. Supplemental article 4 requires qualified SNPs to appoint representatives on which such blocking and removal orders and requests may be served. (Law No. 5651 arts. 8, 8/A, 9, 9/A.)