Legal responsibilities of (web) hosting providers such as Instagram, Facebook and Youtube

INTRODUCTION

In the digitalized world order, many needs and topics such as communication, socializing, and information are provided through the Internet environment. Content, data and information are transmitted over the Internet and made available by transmission. The increasing daily use of the Internet and the expansion of its areas of use have led to the need to address certain rights and obligations in the most detailed manner within the same scope.

In this regard, 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 on May 23, 2007 and numbered 26530, and the rules of the Internet and social media have been implemented in the legislation of our country. Along with the law, the Regulations on the Procedures and Principles of Internet Broadcasts (“Regulation”) and other regulations guarantee 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 scope of the Act and Regulations, Internet matters may be collected under 4 (four) main headings as shown below.

  • Access providers which offer their users access to the Internet environment,
  • Content providers who produce, modify and provide any information or data presented to users on the Internet,
  • Mass Usage Providers that allow people to use the Internet in a certain place and for a certain period of time, and
  • Hosting Providers (Web) that provide or operate systems that host the services and content discussed in this article

In this article, the legal responsibilities of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and similar hosting providers used by people and institutions of all ages for various purposes are discussed.

II. WHAT IS HOSTING PROVIDER (WEB)?

Hosting (web) providers cover platforms like; social media, dictionaries, forums, blogs, etc. (Web) hosts are not required to verify the legitimacy of the content they contain. However, as authorities or rights holders report inappropriate content or sharing to the provider, the legal liability of the (web) hosting provider will become an issue.

In order to operate as an access provider or (web) hosting provider in Turkey, the operating certificate containing the authorization under the law issued by the Telecommunications Authority must be present (The list of commercial (web) hosting providers is available from the Information and Communication Technology Authority. https://www.btk.gov.tr/ticari-amacli-hizmet-verenler-yer-saglayici-listesi link).

III. WHAT ARE THE MAIN RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE WEB HOSTING PROVIDER?

First of all, it is important to note that the (web) hosting provider is not obliged to verify the content they provide or to investigate whether it is illegal activity. However, the main obligations of (web) hosts are listed below:

(I) Without prejudice to criminal liability, the (web) hosting provider is obligated to remove illegal content from the posting if notified by the Presidency of Telecommunications (“Presidency”), judicial authorities or persons whose rights are violated to the extent that it is technically possible to block it.

(ii) The (web) hosting provider is required to retain traffic information for 6 (six) months, to maintain the accuracy and integrity of this information as well as timestamps and to maintain data confidentiality.

(iii) (Web) hosts, as part of their information obligations; is required to keep the introductory information specified below in its own Internet environment, so that users can access it directly from the home page and under the heading communication, in an accurate, complete and up-to-date manner.

    • For real people; surname and first name For legal persons; title and responsible persons, tax identification number or commercial registration number,
    • The place of residence. For legal persons, the place where the head office is located,
    • Email contact address and telephone number,
    • Information on the competent supervisory authority if the service it provides is carried out in the context 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 of TRY 10,000 to TRY 100,000 will be imposed on (web) hosting providers who fail to issue the (web) hosting notification or fail to fulfill their obligations under the law.

IV. DELETING CONTENT AND PREVENTING ACCESS

Persons, institutions or organizations who claim that their personal rights have been violated by Internet content can 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 must, as a general rule, receive a response within 24 (twenty-four) hours.
  • If the (web) hosting provider cannot respond within a reasonable time, they may be asked to remove the content by contacting the content provider. This request must, as a general rule, receive a response within 24 (twenty-four) hours.
  • Or, instead of the above warning methodsit may be requested to prevent access to the content by seizing the judge of the correctional court of the peace.

In addition to this, in non-deferred cases; such as (I) the protection of the right to life and the protection of the safety of life and property of persons, (ii) the protection of national security and public order, (iii) crime prevention or (iv) protection of general health; a decision can be made to remove content and/or block access.

This decision taken by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority must be executed within 4 (four) hours from the notification to the access providers and to the content and hosting providers (web ) concerned. Otherwise, administrative fines ranging from TRY 50,000 to TRY 500,000 will be imposed.

V. IN CONCLUSION

The increasing use of the Internet in the digitalized world order and the expansion of its areas of use have led to the need to manage certain rights and obligations in the same context in the most detailed manner. Due to the fact that almost everyone with Internet access in the world uses digital media and the Internet environment at a continuous and increasing speed; there are demands for effective and fast detection, blocking and removal of illegal sharing.

In this context, although there is no obligation for (web) hosts such as Instagram, Youtube and Facebook to control the legitimacy of their users’ sharing, these platforms have certain responsibilities in the event of illegal sharing. Otherwise, administrative fines will be imposed.

James S. Joseph