Istanbul : Turkey tightens grip on social media with new law. Legislation targets social networks with more than a million unique visits every day.

Turkey's parliament on Wednesday passed a ''controversial bill'' giving the government greater control of social media, a move criticised by human rights advocates as an attempt to increase online censorship.

Under the new law, social media such as Facebook and Twitter have to ensure that they have local representatives in Turkey and to comply with court orders over the removal of certain content or face heavy fines.

The legislation targets social networks with more than a million unique visits every day and says servers with Turkish users data on them must be sited locally.

If companies refuse to comply, they will face fines and restrictions making the platform unusable.

The bill was submitted by the ruling AKP and its nationalist partner the MHP, which have a majority in parliament, and passed after a night-long marathon.

Human Rights groups and the opposition are worried over what they call the erosion of freedom of expression in Turkey with thousands of people subject to criminal proceedings for insulting ''President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on social media.

They argue that increased control will also limit access to independent or critical information in a country where the news media is the hands of government-friendly businessmen or controlled by the state.

''Why now?'' asked Yaman Akdenix, professor at Istanbul's Bilgi University and a cyber rights expert.

''While print and broadcast media platforms are already under government control, social media networks are relatively free.

Social media has become one of the few spaces for live and effective expression in Turkey,'' he told AFP.


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