As our readers might recall from our previous article, the Law no. 5651, also known as the "Internet Law", was recently amended by the Law no. 7253 ("Amending Law"). The Amending Law introduced significant revisions to the Internet Law, most of which have entered into force as of 31 July 2020. However, amendments regulating the obligations of Foreign Social Network Providers including those requiring designation of a representative were due to enter into force on 1 October 2020.
The obligations of Foreign Social Network Providers have now entered into force as of 1 October 2020. In parallel with this, the decision of the Information and Communication Technologies Authority ("ICTA") introducing the "Procedures and Principles for Social Network Providers" ("Procedures and Principles") was published in the Official Gazette dated 2 October 2020. The Procedures and Principles determines and clarifies the obligations of social network providers and sets out the procedures and principles for the implementation of these obligations. To avoid repetition of points under our previous article, we will only address in this article the matters which are either prescribed or clarified by the Procedures and Principles. For a summary of the overall changes brought by the Amending Law, please review our earlier article here.
"Social Network Provider" and its Obligations
"Social Network Provider", which is now another actor of the internet defined under the Internet Law, was described as the legal or natural person who facilitates its users to create, view, and share content such as text, image, sound, or location to enable social interaction among them.
The Procedures and Principles specify certain principles regarding the definition of "social network provider". Accordingly, natural or legal persons who facilitate social interaction only in a certain part of their broadcasts will not be considered as social network providers. Further, platforms where social interaction is a secondary and ancillary part of the service (e.g. personal websites, e-commerce websites, and news websites) are also excluded from the scope of the definition.
Duties of the Representative
Pursuant to the additional article 4 inserted into the Internet Law, social network providers based outside of Turkey and who have more than 1 million daily access to their services from Turkey ("Foreign Social Network Providers") were obliged to appoint at least one representative in Turkey. Article 7 of the Procedures and Principles enumerates and clarifies the duties of the representative. Accordingly, the appointed representative or representatives will ensure that:
1. The necessary actions are taken in response to notices, notifications, or requests sent by ICTA, the Access Providers Union, or judicial or administrative authorities,
2. Responses are given to the applications made by individuals within the scope of the Internet Law,
3. The reporting obligations are fulfilled,
4. The obligations of the Foreign Social Network Provider arising from its status as a content or hosting provider are fulfilled,
5. Other obligations under the Internet Law are fulfilled.
Responding to Applications Filed by Individuals
Foreign Social Network Providers were obliged by the Amending Law to respond to the requests of individuals within the scope of articles 9 and 9/A of the Internet Law within 48 hours at the latest. Pursuant to article 19 of the Procedures and Principles, the ICTA will examine, upon the request of the individual concerned, whether the Foreign Social Network Provider has met its obligation to respond and in this examination, ICTA shall take into account whether the social network provider (1) has established the systems required for effectively meeting this obligation, (2) routinely rejects applications, (3) systematically fails to respond to applications in a timely manner, and (4) rejects applications without providing any reasoning.
The Procedures and Principles also oblige Foreign Social Network Providers to (1) ensure that individuals can file their applications in Turkish and (2) respond in Turkish to applications made in Turkish.
With the Amending Law, Foreign Social Network Providers were obliged to store the data of their users in Turkey within Turkey. The Procedures and Principles require Foreign Social Network Providers to prioritize localization of basic user information and other data to be specified by ICTA. Further, Foreign Social Network Providers will also need to inform ICTA on measures they have implemented in this context within their periodic reports that will be submitted to ICTA.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.