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Turkey fines Facebook owner Meta over customer data sharing

Turkey Facebook Deniz Demirci/Unsplash
Turkey is a big customer of Meta, with 60 million Instagram users and 40 million Facebook users
  • Meta Platforms must pay $37m
  • Company shared user data without asking
  • Fines ‘unlikely to have major impact’

The social media giant Meta has been found guilty by Turkey’s competition agency of trying to shut out rivals from the local market and dominate advertising penetration.

The $230 billion Californian company operates Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Threads.

On May 9 the Turkish Competition Authority announced it had levied fines totalling $37.2 million on Meta Platforms for breaching regulations on free and fair competition. 

The board ruled that, by combining and sharing the data it collected from its various platforms, Meta was hindering competition and new entries into the social media market and restricting access to advertising revenue streams.

The core of the finding against Meta was that it had shared user information across platforms without users’ permission, allowing Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Threads to expand their advertising reach at the expense of other tech firms. 

Meta had already moved to address some of these concerns.

In mid-April, the company announced it was temporarily shutting down the Turkish arm of its social media platform Threads in line with an interim order from the competition board stemming from an investigation into data sharing between Threads and Instagram.

While users will still be able to merge their data across the platforms, this can only be done at their request, and Meta will be required to inform patrons of data usage, the board ruled.

However, Said Ercan, the president of the International Social Media Association in Turkey, said that the ruling, though at the upper end of fines imposed on social media providers, was unlikely to have a major impact on Meta, or other tech firms. 

“I don’t think this will have a negative impact on these platforms, because of Turkey’s high usage capacity,” he told AGBI.

“I do not believe that they can disregard Turkey, as we are number one in the world for personal Instagram usage, with 24 hours per month.

“There are 60 million Instagram users in Turkey and 40 million Facebook users, while Whatsapp is the main form of communication for companies.”

Ercan said that, rather than Turkey taking unprecedented action against a social media corporation, the fine imposed by the competition board followed the lead set by Europe, where countries are also moving to erect barriers to monopolies in the data transfer and media sectors.

“I see this decision as Turkey following the trend of European countries,” he said. “Compared to European fines this is not large. I do not believe this would drive social media or tech companies away.”

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