Asia dilemma: social networks pressed by Turkey and Vietnam to censor critics

Asia dilemma: social networks pressed by Turkey and Vietnam to censor critics

YouTube and Facebook weigh reputation damage of bowing to repressive governments

ISTANBUL — Turkey, Vietnam and other emerging Asian countries have ramped up pressure on social media platforms to restrict critical content, with some degree of success.

Google-owned streaming service YouTube said last week that it will set up an office in Turkey, following legislation passed here in July that requires major social media companies to appoint a local representative. This is seen as a way to give teeth to requests to take down posts that authorities deem inappropriate.

Such demands force social media companies to make difficult choices between either allowing censorship on their platforms, with the bad publicity that entails in the West, or else facing serious consequences for their business in big emerging markets.

Companies that fail to comply with Turkey’s new law, for example, will be hit with escalating consequences through May, including advertising bans and bandwidth cuts of up to 90%. Before YouTube’s move, only Russia’s VKontakte had designated a local representative, while other companies — including YouTube — had each been fined a total of 40 million lira ($5.2 million).