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Turkey determined to control social media platforms, Erdogan says

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey will introduce regulations to control social media platforms or shut them down, President Tayyip Erdogan announced on Wednesday, pressing ahead with government plans after he said his family was insulted online.

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Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, said on Twitter on Tuesday that his fourth child had been born. Following the tweet, some users insulted Albayrak’s wife Esra.

Users of 11 out of 19 accounts determined to have shared content that insulted Albayrak and his family were detained, Turkish police headquarters said in a statement on Wednesday.

Speaking to members of his AK Party, Erdogan repeated that his party would introduce new regulations to control the use of social media, adding that an increase of “immoral acts” on the platforms in recent years was due to a lack of regulations.

“Do you understand now why we are against social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter and Netflix? These platforms do not suit this nation. We want to shut down, control (them) by bringing (a bill) to parliament as soon as possible,” he said.

Ankara strictly polices social media content, especially during periods such as military operations and the current coronavirus pandemic.

Turkey fiercely criticised Twitter last month for suspending more than 7,000 accounts that supported Erdogan, saying the company was smearing the government and trying to redesign Turkish politics.

Erdogan said on Wednesday that social media companies would be forced to appoint representatives in Turkey to respond to legal requests, which he said were currently ignored.

“We are determined to do whatever is necessary ... and will implement access bans, and legal and fiscal penalties after completion of the regulation,” Erdogan said.

However a top Erdogan aide, Communications Director Fahrettin Altun, said his remarks were being taken out of context, adding the companies were asked to open offices in Turkey.

“It is a futile effort to try presenting our president’s approach as repressive and prohibitionist,” Altun said.

In April, the ruling AK Party included similar measures on social media in a draft law mainly about economic measures against the coronavirus outbreak. The draft law required companies to appoint representatives or have their bandwidth slashed by up to 95%, which would effectively make them inaccessible.

The measures were later removed from the draft law but opposition members warned they would come back on the agenda.

Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun, Ali Kucukgocmen and Ece Toksabay, Editing by William Maclean and Jonathan Spicer

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