Reporters Without Borders

Online censorship now bordering on the ridiculous in Turkey

Online censorship now bordering on the ridiculous in Turkey

Published on Friday 29 April 2011. Updated on Monday 2 May 2011.
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Reporters Without Borders is both amused and shocked to learn that the High Council for Telecommunications (TIB), Turkey’s Internet regulator, has issued Internet service providers and website hosting companies with a list of 138 keywords that are henceforth to be banned from Turkish Internet. The list was sent out on 27 April.

“If the TIB’s aim is to control pornography, one wonders why first names such as ‘Adrianne’ and ‘Haydar’ or everyday terms such as ‘free’, ‘pic’, ‘fat’ and ‘pregnant’ are on the list of censored words,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“With Turkey already blocking thousands of sites with content that is considered sensitive, the consequences of such keyword filtering could be disastrous for online freedom of expression. The authorities must abandon this scheme and instead reform Law 5651 on the Internet, which makes such arbitrary censorship possible.”

According to the TIB directive, access to websites containing words on the list would in theory be suspended and it would be impossible to create new ones containing them. However, it is not clear how and to what extent the directive will be implemented in practice. The TIB could decide to suppress or block pages for just one blacklisted word. The lack of clarity about this repressive measure is legally unacceptable.

The list, which borders on the ridiculous, includes words such as “etek” (skirt), “baldiz” (sister-in-law) and “hayvan” (animals). It poses serious problems for access to online information. If words such as “free” and “pic” are censored, countless references to freedom and everyday photos will be eliminated from the Turkish Internet.

Referring to legislation governing the right to information, Yaman Akdeniz, a law lecturer at Istanbul’s Bilgi University, has asked the TIB to explain the presence of certain words on the banned list and has demanded access to all the documents and source material used in compiling it. Reporters Without Borders supports his initiative and asks the TIB to respond as quickly as possible.

Turkey is already blocking access to more than 7,000 websites. References to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (the Turkish republic’s founder), the armed forces, the Turkish nation, minorities (especially the Kurds), and so-called “terrorist” organizations are highly sensitive and subject to online censorship. Most website blocking is carried out in response to administrative decisions taken by the TIB.

Turkey is on the list of countries “under surveillance” in the “Enemies of the Internet” report that Reporters Without Borders issued on 11 March.

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INTERNET ENEMIES

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