The Advertisement Board unanimously rendered last November a very criticized decision where the Board set forth a new principle regarding advertisement and listings of products bearing LGBT, pride, or rainbow theme on online e-commerce websites.
The Board examined the advertisements regarding phone cases bearing the expressions, "LGBT", "Love is Love", "Pride" and the rainbow theme available on three major Turkish e-commerce websites. The Board held that these products should be presented for sale with the mark "18+" and ordered, as sanction, for cease the presentation of these products as well as the advertisements which were not marked as "18+" at the time of this market surveillance.
The same approach was adopted by the Advertisement Board against the advertisement and listings of some t-shirts, sweatshirts, beach towels, coffee cups also bearing expressions like "Peace", "LGBT Power", "Equality", "Bisexual", "Freedom", "normal", "Lesbian", "Gay", "Homosexual", "LGBT Relationship" on the same e-commerce websites. These expressions and relevant themes are found to have the identical influence and intention. These advertisements and listings were censored in the same way, too.
The Advertisement Board justified its decision on the general principles of the Turkish Constitution, provisions of international treaties and Regulation on Commercial Advertisements and Unfair Commercial Practices pertaining to protection of children against harmful content in advertisements and broadcasts. The Board stated that the promotion and advertising with such expressions could only be launched preserving the innocence and the moral integrity of the children and abstaining from any prejudicial effect to the minors.
The above-mentioned expressions and themes were referred to as negatively influencing the minors' mental, ethical, psychological, and social development and intending to alter and to perturb the cultural, ethical, and social behaviors. As a result and based on its goal of protecting children against bad habits the Board held that the presentation and advertisement of the products pertaining to sexual orientation should indicate the "18+" marking.
In fact, there is no explicit legal rule under Turkish law categorizing these themes and/or products bearing those as adult content and requiring listings / advertising thereof to be marked as "18+". Article 24 of the Regulation on Commercial Advertisements and Unfair Commercial Practices has general principle ruling that the advertisement which is children-oriented or is likely to affect children or in which the child actors are present, shall contain no expression or image that is likely to influence the child's physical, mental, ethical, psychological and social development negatively and contain no factor intending to perturb, to alter or to defame the cultural, ethical or positive social behaviors.
The decision introduced "18+" marking for these products and similar thereof listed in the e-commerce websites. Legitimacy of this new principle introduced into Turkish law is quite arguable while this requirement and restriction on the advertisements was not enacted in any piece of legislation and it can be claimed not to have legal basis.
The decision is quite ambiguous and obscure, because the censored products are ordinary daily used products like phone cases, coffee cups, t-shirts etc. The Advertisement Board's understanding and the perception towards these themes are confounding and contain the seeds of further conflicts. The decision is also open to criticism as it is strongly based on stereotypes in a world that evolves to pluralism and that breaks away from stereotypes.
The Ministry of Trade, under which the Advertisement Board is established, explained in its further speeches to the press that the decision serves for protection of children against elements being detrimental to their mental, moral, & psychological development. The Ministry underlined that the sale of the concerned products is not prohibited but the advertisements thereof are restricted as set out in the Board's decision.
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