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Turkey presses social networks to impose censorship

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Turkey, Vietnam, and other Asian emerging countries have stepped up pressure on social media platforms to restrict content.

And theShe said The Google-owned YouTube platform last week: It will set up an office in Turkey, after legislation passed in July that requires major social media companies to appoint a local representative.

This is seen as a way to give authorities the power to remove posts they deem inappropriate.

Such demands force social media companies to make difficult choices between allowing censorship across their platforms or facing dire consequences for their business activity in major emerging markets.

Companies that do not comply with Turkey’s new law are exposed to escalating consequences until May, including banning advertisements and reducing bandwidths by up to 90 percent.

Before YouTube’s move, only Russian company VKontakte had hired a local representative, while other companies – including YouTube – were fined a total of 40 million lira ($ 5.2 million).

In a statement, Human Rights Watch said: YouTube’s decision sets a dangerous precedent that makes it difficult for other technology companies to refuse to appoint a local representative in Turkey or in other countries that may impose similar requirements.

Vietnam is putting pressure on social media platforms as well, with Hanoi recently warning Facebook that its service in the country will be closed if the company does not agree to tighten content restrictions.

Facebook agreed to a similar demand in April to censor more anti-state posts, but the government is now seeking tougher measures.

As anti-government demonstrations swept across Thailand in October, authorities responded by demanding the Thai Criminal Court block the Facebook page of a protest group, as well as media outlets that posted footage of the protests via the platform.

In August, the authorities demanded that Facebook delete a page run by an organization critical of the Thai royal family. The company blocked access to the page in Thailand while issuing a statement saying it was forced to do so.

In late September, Facebook in the Philippines shut down 64 fake accounts linked to the military and police that criticized the political opposition and human rights groups.

President Rodrigo Duterte criticized the move at an online press conference that month.

Russia is also working to increase its control over the internet, ostensibly to prevent the spread of extremism, passing a new law last year banning fake news.

Lawmakers have also submitted a bill to parliament in November that would allow the government to restrict access to US social media platforms that remove posts from Russian state media.

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, in defense of the bill, said: These platforms violated the rights of Russian users.

Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, raised concerns about such developments at the virtual web summit.

Clegg said: China has built its Internet on the basis of a completely different set of values, with tight control and without the checks and balances needed to protect data and privacy.

And theLarge US platforms are keen to maintain a foothold in these markets, especially after being driven out of China.

WaIn December, Amnesty International criticized Facebook and Google for allowing Vietnamese authorities to use them as a tool for censorship and harassment.

The Freedom Online Report, which studies 65 countries around the world and publishes the Freedom House every year, has found a decline in freedoms online each year over the past decade.

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