Keyboard Warriors 'Gagged'

  Jul 6, 2020 10:14 am Ibrar Younas 1452
A new law introduced this week to combat so-called cyber crime could also be used to stifle criticism on the internet, with one senior politician warning that “the era of keyboard warriors has come to an end.”

Keyboard Warriors 'Gagged'

By KEREM HASAN / Chief Reporter 

The Information Technology law also requires online sites offering “news” content to register, and publish the name of their editor, or face shutdown. It also refers to protecting the rights and reputations of others, which critics say could lead to legal action against anyone who posts something critical online, such as a restaurant review or complaints about professional services.

The bill – passed in parliament on Monday – was widely backed by the government and the main opposition Republican Turkish Party (CTP) – although there have been claims by some civil groups that it will be used to curtail freedom of information.

Democrat Party MP Serdar Denktaş told MPs: “With the coming of this law into force, the era of ‘keyboard warrior’ will come to an end, and from now on, nobody will be able to write whatever they so wish by easily insulting another person.”

He congratulated the parliamentary political and legal affairs committee headed by National Unity Party MP and advocate, Oğuzhan Hasipoğlu for drawing up the new measure, which is said to be aimed primarily at online fraudsters.

Mr Denktaş said: “This law may not necessarily immediately stop a slander or false news from being distributed online, therefore there will be a need to have an intermediate mechanism.  No matter how hard the work has been, there can be deficiencies but this can later be resolved. There is a need for the committee head to hold a press conference to give information to the public as to how the law will be enforced in practice.”

Mr Hasipoğlu said there was a “black hole” in the law concerning cyber crime. “Because of a lack of a legal framework, the police are powerless in taking legal action concerning cyber crime. When people make complaints concerning cyber crime, they are usually told that nothing can be done because there is no law to cover this area.

“There should not be any concern regarding any curtailment of the freedom of expression. The law will clearly state on what basis a web site can be blocked. Fundamental rights and freedoms shall not be touched.

“Our objective is to enable people to use the internet in a safe and secure environment and to benefit from information technology.”

He said the law will allow for the BTHK (Information Technology and Communications Board) to block a news web site that has no masthead, adding they will give such news portals 18 months to implement this. 

“It will also make such portals accountable for what the data and information that they are publishing.”

CTP deputy Doğuş Derya said that the law “protected the freedom of expression”, stating however that “there has been an impression that there will be some sort of restriction. . .but this law is about tackling cyber crime as information technology continues to develop.  The necessary importance has been given to human rights, freedom of expression. . . and has introduced controls to some news web sites. If there are articles that are contrary to democracy these can be worked upon and amended,” she said. 

Social Democartic Party MP Zeki Çeler expressed concern that the public was not “satisfactorily informed.” He said there was concern that under this law, the police would without a court order be able to confiscate devices, such as PC and laptops.

Rebirth Party MP Erhan Arıklı “welcomed” the passing of bill, saying: “We agree there is a need for a intermediary mechanism. . .this law provides that legal action can be taken in 24 hours if one person insults or slanders another.” 

Press Workers Union (Basın-Sen) chairman Ali Kişmir slammed the Information Technology Bill, saying: “As an organisation that is a member of the International Federation of Journalists and European Journalists Federation. . .our view is that this bill will introduce restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of expression and the press online.

“We refute this bill. Every show of hand in support of the bill is the same as hands strangling our communal freedom.” Mr Kişmir also complained that the views of Basın-Sen “were never taken when work was ongoing to draft the bill”.

CTP MP and advocate Fazile Özdenefe evaluating the bill, said news web sites would “be legally obliged to publish the name of the editor in chief or person in charge as well as the centre of publication and contact detail, otherwise access to the publication can be prevented.”

Refering to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, she said there was a ‘cumulative test’ that had to be followed for any such restrictions concerning the EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline: 

That they must be provided by the law, which is clear and accessible to everyone; They must pursue the purposes. . .to protect the rights and reputations of others, to protect national security, public order or public health or morals and thirdly, they must be proven necessary and as the least restrictive means required and commensurate with the purported aim.