Turkish translators at Disney+ warned about translating “sensitive” topics

In June, Disney+ launched its services in Turkey. 

A month later, local media reported that the company’s Turkish subtitle translators received an email with directions on certain content and sensitive themes that they should flag when working on translation assignments. While the platform’s launch brought more than 1,000 movies and hundreds of TV shows to the country’s array of streaming options, subtitle translators have been warned to notify administrators upon coming across content that could offend the country’s leadership.

While the letter to Disney+ translators working on projects for the platform’s Turkish audience did not specifically mention that this directive would be used for censorship, the government has increased its monitoring of digital platforms in recent years. 

A Turkish law that went into effect in 2020 required certain social media networks to appoint Turkish representatives, in an effort to monitor fake news and disinformation. While some companies refused to do so initially, they were met with hefty fines and eventually gave into the government’s demands. Critics claim the law to be a thinly veiled effort to censor online media. 

In Disney+’s email to subtitle translators, the workers were told to report sensitive subject matter — from issues dealing with the LGBTQ community to portrayals of the country’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a dictator — to the company’s Turkish representative. Translators were also warned about content regarding the Armenian Genocide, the country’s Kurdish population, and the ongoing territorial dispute between the Greeks and Turks living on Cyprus.

According to Gazete Duvar (link is in Turkish), a local news agency based in Turkey, Disney did not respond to the media’s request for comment. It is unclear what action will be taken once the translators notify the company’s Turkish representatives, though such notifications could be used to identify and censor content that goes against the viewpoint of the country’s government.

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Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner is a writer from Sacramento. He received his B.A. in linguistics and English from UCLA and is currently working toward an M.A. in applied linguistics at Columbia University. His writing has been published in Language Magazine, Sactown Magazine, and The Takeout.

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