Latest Development As Regards to the Social Network Providers
The Information Technologies and Communications Board adopted the Procedures and Principles for Social Network Providers (“Procedures and Principles”) with its decision dated 28.03.2023 and numbered 2023/DK-ID/119. The said decision was published in the Official Gazette dated 01.04.2023, and entered into force on the date of publication. The Procedures and Principles aims to clarify the obligations of social network providers stipulated with the amendments to the Act on Internet Broadcasting and Combating Crimes Committed by Internet Broadcastings numbered 5651 (“Internet Broadcasting Act”) in October 2022. This Newsletter article will focus on the prominent provisions regulated under the Procedures and Principles.
What do the New Principles and Procedures Encompass?
Appointing a Representative and the Conditions Required
The Procedures and Principles reiterates the regulation on the obligation of social network providers to appoint a representative as stipulated under the Internet Broadcasting Act and obliges foreign social network providers with more than one million daily accesses from Türkiye to appoint at least one real or legal person representative. In case a real person representative is appointed, the representative must be a resident of Türkiye and a Turkish citizen; in case a legal entity representative is appointed, the representative must be established in Türkiye and have acquired legal personality in accordance with Turkish legislation. On the other hand, it is regulated that the legal person representatives must be an equity company and the conditions required for the equity company to be established are also regulated. Accordingly, the name of the representative must bear the distinguishing tradename of the social network provider and the province where the company is established, all shares must be owned by the social network provider, the articles of association must declare that it is an entity within the organization of and affiliated to the social network provider, the capital must be at least one hundred million Turkish Liras, and finally, the articles of association must clearly state that the social network provider is fully authorized and responsible for technical, administrative, legal and financial aspects.
The social network provider shall also announce the notification address and e-mail address of the representative in Türkiye, and the registered email address (KEP), if applicable, on its website; and shall notify the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (“Authority”) of the identity, title and contact information. The Procedures and Principles comprises the documents to be submitted before the Authority separately for real person and legal person representatives.
Duties of the Representative
The representative appointed shall ensure compliance with the notifications, notices or requests by the Authority, the Association of Access Providers, judicial or administrative authorities, and moreover ensure a response for each application by the individuals, fulfillment of the reporting obligation, the responsibilities and obligations arising for being a content or hosting provider, and other obligations arising from the above-mentioned act.
Applications and Reporting Duty
A social network provider with more than one million daily accesses from Türkiye is obliged to respond to applications by the individuals regarding content that are within the scope of Articles 9 and 9/A of the Internet Broadcasting Act. The opportunity to submit the application in Turkish must be provided to the individuals and the applications shall be answered positively or negatively with reasoning within forty-eight hours at the latest.
Social network providers with more than one million daily accesses from Türkiye shall submit a report in Turkish containing information on implementation of the decision regarding the removal of the content and access blocking, and the applications made within the six-month periods. The issues to be covered in the report are detailed under Article 10/3.
Social network providers with more than one million daily access in Türkiye are obliged to create an advertisement library. The content of the advertisement library is regulated by the Procedures and Principles: content and type of the advertisement, the advertiser, the period during which the advertisement remains on air, target audience and the parameters used in determining the target audience, number of people or groups reached by the advertisement. The advertisement library must be available on the social network provider’s website.
Notification to Judicial Authorities
During the investigation or prosecution of crimes of sexual abuse of children, public dissemination of misleading information, disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state, crimes against the constitutional order and its functioning, crimes against state secrets and espionage as regulated under the Turkish Penal Code numbered 5237; the information necessary to reach those who create or disseminate internet content subject to the listed crimes shall be provided by the relevant social network to the judicial authorities upon the request by the relevant authorities. This regulation reiterates the obligation to notify judicial authorities that was added with the amendment to the Internet Broadcasting Act.
Hosting Data in Türkiye
The Internet Broadcasting Act regulates that a social network provider with more than one million daily accesses from Türkiye must take necessary measures to host user data within Türkiye. The Procedures and Principles reiterates this obligation and states that necessary measures to host basic user information and data on issues that may be notified by the Authority are of priority.
Providing Segregated Services Designed for Children and Protecting User Rights
With the amendment to the Internet Broadcasting Act, it was added that necessary measures will be taken to provide segregated services specifically designed for children. With the procedures and principles, it is stated that when content, advertisements and other services are displayed by children; following items must be considered: (i) their age, (ii) their best interests, (iii) protection of their physical, psychological and emotional development, (iv) prevention of sexual abuse and risks for commercial exploitation, (v) protection of their personal data, (vi) ensuring high level of privacy settings and minimization of data processing, (vii) proving contract, user settings and data policies in a manner that a child can understand.
On the other hand, within the scope of the amendments to the Internet Broadcasting Act, social network providers are obliged to treat their users equally and impartially, and to take necessary measures to provide its users with the option to update their preferences regarding the content it recommends and to limit the use of their personal data. While these regulations are already established under the Procedures and Principles, the following measures are also included to protect the rights of users:
- Informing the Authority and users in Turkish and in a clear and plain language within seventy-two hours at the latest from the detection of significant security breaches concerning user accounts that directly or indirectly affect users accessing from Türkiye,
- Ensuring easy access to the updates affecting user rights for the services offered,
- Providing clear, plain and easily accessible information on the website regarding which parameters are used when providing recommendations to users,
- Establishing a clear, comprehensible and easily accessible application mechanism in Turkish for hacked or impersonated accounts and finalizing the applications within a reasonable time,
- Complying with other regulations regarding user rights to be adopted by the Authority.
Finally, the administrative fines to be imposed in case of breach of obligations under the new Procedures and Principles are regulated. Moreover, when certain obligations are violated, prohibition of placing advertisements by Turkish taxpayers to the social network provider and restriction of social network bandwidth are imposed.
In October 2022, the Internet Broadcasting Law was extensively amended and important new obligations were imposed on social network providers. The new Procedures and Principles, on the other hand, elaborate and clarify the obligations regulated by the Internet Broadcasting Law. In this respect, it is a guide that social network providers should observe during their activities and contains important tips.
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