In the digitalized world order, many needs and topics such as communication, socialization, and information are provided through the internet environment. Contents, data and information are transmitted over the internet and made available by transmission. The increasing use of the Internet every day and the widening of its usage areas brought along the necessity of addressing certain rights and obligations in the most detailed manner within the same scope.
In this respect, the Law No. 5651 on the Regulation of Internet Broadcasts and the Fight Against Crimes Committed Through These Publications ("Law") was published in the Official Gazette dated May 23, 2007 and numbered 26530, and the internet and social media rules were put into legal ground in our country. Along with the Law, the Regulation on the Procedures and Principles of Broadcasts on the Internet ("Regulation") and other regulations ensures the legal and criminal rights and obligations of individuals, institutions and organizations in the rapidly developing use of the internet and social media.
Within the framework of the Law and Regulation, internet subjects can be collected under 4 (four) main headings as stated below.
- Access providers that provide their users with access to the internet environment,
- Content providers that produce, change and provide any information or data presented to users over the Internet,
- Mass use providers that allow people to use the internet in a certain place and for a certain period of time, and
- (Web) hosting providers that provide or operate systems that host the services and content that are the subject of this article
In this article, legal responsibilities of facebook, instagram, twitter and similar (web) hosting providers used by people and institutions of all ages for various purposes are discussed.
II. WHAT IS (WEB) HOSTING PROVIDER?
(Web) hosting providers cover platforms such as; social media, dictionaries, forums, blogs, etc.. (Web) hosting providers are not obliged to check the legitimacy of the contents within them. However, as the authorities or rights holders report inappropriate content or sharing to the provider, the legal responsibility of the (web) hosting provider shall become an issue.
In order to operate as access provider or (web) hosting provider in Turkey, the operating certficate containing the authorization within the scope of the Law issued by the Telecommunication Authority must be present (The list of commercial (web) hosting providers shall be accessed from Information Technologies and Communication Authority's https://www.btk.gov.tr/ticari-amacli-hizmet-verenler-yer-saglayici-listesi link).
III. WHAT ARE THE MAIN RESPONSIBILITIES OF WEB) HOSTING PROVIDER?
First and foremost, it is important to note that the (web) hosting provider is not obliged to check the content it provides, or to investigate whether an illegal activity is involved. However, the main obligations of the (web) hosting providers are listed below:
(i) Without prejudie to criminal responsibility, (web) hosting provider is obliged to remove the illegal content from the publication if it is informed by Telecommunications Communication Presidency ("Presidency"), judicial authorities or people whose rights are violated within the extent that it is technically possible to block it.
(ii) (Web) hosting provider is obliged to keep the traffic information for 6 (six) months, to keep the accuracy and integrity of this information together with the time stamp and to ensure the confidentiality of the data.
(iii) (Web) hosting providers, within the scope of their information obligations; is obliged to keep the introductory information specified below in their own internet environment, in a way that users can access directly from the home page and under the heading of communication, accurately, completely and up to date.
- For the real persons; name and surname For the legal entities; title and responsible persons, tax identification number or trade registration number,
- The place of residence. For the legal entities the place where the head office is located,
- Electronic contact address and phone number,
- Information on the competent supervisory authority if the service it provides is performed within the framework of an activity subject to the authorization or supervision of a competent authority.
If these obligations are not fulfilled, an administrative fine is imposed by the Presidency.
(iv) An administrative fine shall be imposed from TRY 10,000 to TRY 100,000 to (web)hosting providers who does not issue the notification for (web) hosting or fulfill their obligations within the Law.
IV. REMOVING CONTENT AND PREVENTING ACCESS
Persons, institutions or organizations that claim that their personal rights have been violated due to the internet content may follow the steps below.
- First of all, in order to remove the content, it may be requested to remove the content by notifying the contact addresses of the (web) hosting provider. This request shall, as a rule, be answered within 24 (twenty four) hours.
- If the (web) hosting provider cannot respond within a reasonable period of time, it may be requested to remove the content by contacting the content provider. This request shall, as a rule, be answered within 24 (twenty four) hours.
- Or, instead of the above warning methods, it can be requested to prevent access to the content by applying to the criminal court of peace judge.
In addition to this, in non-delayable cases; such as (i) the protection of the right to life and the protection of persons' safety of life and property, (ii) the protection of national security and public order, (iii) the prevention of crime or (iv) the protection of general health; a decision may be made to remove the content and/or block access.
This decision made by the Information Technologies and Communication Authority must be fulfilled within 4 (four) hours from the notification to the access providers and relevant content and (web) hosting providers. Otherwise, administrative fines from TRY 50,000 to TRY 500,000 shall be imposed.
V. IN CONCLUSION
The increasing use of the internet in the digitalized world order and the widening of its usage areas brought with it the necessity of handling certain rights and obligations in the same context in the most detailed way. Due to the fact that almost everyone with internet access in the world uses digital media and the internet environment at a continuous and rising speed; there are demands for effective and fast detection, blocking and removal of illegal shares.
In this context, although there is no obligation to the (web) hosting providers such as Instagram, Youtube and Facebook to control the legitimacy of their users' shares, these platforms have some liabilities in case of illegal shares. Otherwise administrative fines shall be imposed.
Originally published June 2, 2020
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.