Advertisements Required to Include +18 Markings

The Advertisement Board rendered a highly controversial decision in July 2022 concluding that the promotions published by a fashion company on the main page of its website under the title of “My Chosen Family” including the following statements “My Chosen Family: A chosen family consists of members who chose to support and love each other. It celebrates who you are no matter whom you love. Meet the LGBTQIA+ family who chose each other” are against the Constitution and Advertising Regulation. The Board issued a cease order regarding these advertisements.

In this decision the Advertisement Board remarked that products pertaining to sexual orientation and/or containing sexual or erotic content must be offered to sale with “+18” markings. They also stated that the sales and adverts in question, absent any warning, were intended to perturb and change children’s and adolescents’ mental, ethical, psychological, and social development. This decision is in line with the principle for the protection of children’s interests, emotions and innocence from the promotion or advertising media prejudicial to them, as secured by the Turkish Constitution, international treaties, and other legal provision.

The referred decision is based on Article 24 of the Advertising Regulation, which reads:

The advertisement that is children-oriented or is likely to affect the children or in which the child actors feature, shall contain no expression or image that is likely to influence a child’s physical, mental, ethical, psychological and social development negatively and no factor intending to perturb, alter or defame the cultural, ethical or positive social behaviour.

The decision is controversial in many aspects. Firstly, the statements that the Advertisement Board concluded were contrary to the advertising legislation, were not in any way related to goods offered by the advertiser. They only related to the advertising company’s general supportive attitude to LGBTQIA+ individuals and awareness-raising efforts. Therefore, it is questionable whether the mentioned statements could be accepted as an advertising activity falling under the Board’s remit.

The decision is still open to criticism, even if subject media is taken as an advertisement. There is no provision under Turkish law regulating the sales of the products containing the aforementioned themes and expressions with a “+18” marking. There is no restriction in the Constitution where fundamental rights and equality, personal autonomy, right to respect for privacy and family are regulated, indeed, all these values are protected by the Constitution. The Advertisement Board has adopted a brand-new principle regarding commercial advertisements and promotions through this decision. The legitimacy of this novel principle and limitation is open to dispute. It may also be argued that this decision, which has no basis in the law as it stands.

Although the Advertisement Board made some general citations of international treaties to justify its decision, the Board did not clearly establish in which aspect the statements referring to the love and confidence basis of a family would negatively influence children’s or adolescents’ development.

It is seen that the Advertisement Board maintains its heavily-criticized approach from its previous decision of November 2020 where it deemed the promotions and the sales of products such as t-shirts, sweatshirts, coffee mugs, phone cases, and beach towels offered for sale on various e-commerce sites with expressions ”normal”, “LGBT”, “LGBT Power”, “Equality, Bisexual, Freedom, Lesbian, Gay, Love is Love, Homosexual”LGBT Relationship”, “Love is Love”, “Pride”, “Peace”, “Love is Love”, and rainbow themes without +18 markings as being against the Constitution and the Advertising Regulation.

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