Turkey's broadcast watchdog issues warnings to Spotify, others to comply with new law

(Updated with remarks from media ombudsman)

Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog has issued a warning to four social media platforms, urging the companies to apply for licensing as part of forming a formal presence in the country in accordance with a new law.

Spotify, FoxPlay, Medyaport TV and Paylas FM have 72 hours to apply for a licence in the country, in accordance with the social media law, Duvar news site cited the Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) as saying on Monday.

Should the companies fail to submit their licensing applications within the next three days, RTÜK will domestically block access to the platforms, Duvar said.

Turkey passed a bill in July requiring social media companies with more than 1 million daily users in the country to appoint local representatives, comply with state content removal requests and store user data locally by October, or else face steep hefty fines and local access blocks.

Critics see the move as part of Ankara’s plans to silence one of the few remaining platforms for freedom of expression in the country.

Social media giant Facebook made headlines earlier this month, when Turkish internet rights activist Yaman Akdeniz, citing sources from the company, said it would not comply with the social media law.

RTÜK has specifically targeted Spotify due to its hosting of podcasts, according to former RTÜK board member and media ombudsman Faruk Bildirici.

The broadcasting watchdog is aiming to "police thoughts at full speed,’’ Bildirici said on Twitter. "They have an allergy against free arenas.’’ 

The majority of Turkey's mainstream media has come under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government control, especially after the 2016 coup attempt, prompting Turks to take to social media and smaller online news outlets for critical voices and independent news.