A new telecom Regulation increases concerns about freedom of expression in Turkey. It redefines the power of the Turkish information and communication technologies authority (BTK).
The Regulation was published on the Official Gazette issue 29739 on 11 June 2016. Item 10 of the Regulation is titled “Blocking the service and the suspension of the service provider” and it reads:
The agency [BTK] can suspend all or part of the activities of the [internet and telephone] service provider, and run the service directly by itself for limited or unlimited time in cases of war, general mobilisation and the like, if seen necessary for public security and national defence. In such cases, the period of suspension is added to the service period.
Currently more than 110 000 web sites are permanently blocked in Turkey, and major social media platforms like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are occasionally banned. However, blocking and banning social media sites doesn’t reduce their use – sometimes the visits to these websites, through virtual private networks (VPN) and Tor, are even increased after a blocking decision. The new Regulation seems to provide a radical remedy to this “problem”.
Social media was used effectively for organisation and distributions of news during the protests in the Istanbul Gezi Park in 2013, and in other protests after that. The Gezi protestors successfully blocked the gentrification plan for the contruction of a shopping mall and luxury residences in the place of the park. However, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who had called social media “the worst menace to society” during the protests, vowed again on 18 June 2016 to eradicate the park. The new Regulation might complicate the use social media, and make it more difficult for those opposing the plan to get organised for protesting against it.
Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of June 12 (13.06.2016)
The Official Gazette, issue 29739 (11.06.2016, only in Turkish)
EDRi: 2015 Internet Report on Turkey released (24.02.2016)
EDRi: Turkey: New attempts to limit online access and freedom of speech (21.10.2015)