Turkey: Internet Report on digital rights 2012

By EDRi · October 24, 2012

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Türkei: Bericht über Digitale Rechte 2012 |]

On 28 September 2012, the Turkish Internet Report 2012 was issued by
EDRi observer Alternative Informatics Association showing a worrying
tendency of Internet censorship and control from Turkish authorities.

According to the report, more and more case have been filed against
citizens for sharing “illegal content” on social networks. Such sharing
on social networks started to be taken as “evidence” for criminal
charges such as membership of a terrorist organization and insults to
“values and beliefs”. Astronomic penalties are demanded for very young
detainees on the grounds that they make propaganda on social networks.

While some States call “hacktivist” groups like Anonymous and LulzSec a
“cyber threat” in a pre-cautious manner, Red Hack, which is a group of
the same kind, is declared to be a “terrorist” organization in a legally
disputable way. Moreover, according to some news, a prosecution is
likely to be started against several people following Red Hack on
Twitter for they are said to be the “sympathizers of a terrorist
organization”. Social media sharing is turned into an offence by the new
university discipline legislation; people are being arrested for the
things they have posted or shared on social networks.

On 8 September 2012, declared that the Ministry of
Health blacklisted about 200 websites because they misinform the public
on some health problems such as losing weight, heart diseases and
diabetics. The Ministry of Health established cooperation with the High
Council for Telecommunication (TIB) for filtering throughout this
process. Following this, it was announced on 14 September 2012 that the
websites in question that cover some news portals, announcements,
promotion campaigns and various digital equipment had been filtered as
their content was harmful. However, this process, which poses a threat
to the circulation of information and the freedom of expression, also
proves that the public is unaware of the technical difference between
blocking and filtering a website.

TTNET, which owns the Internet backbone in Turkey and is the biggest
Internet Service Provider (ISP) of the country, signed a business
agreement in 2012 with the company called PHORM. After the experience of
UK market, Phorm built an interface in which the user’s permission is
asked. However, the system and the interface are still tricky. When the
browser is closed without declining, the system opts-in the user as a
lame website trick. Right after the beginning of the online campaign on, Phorm’s staff in Turkey began PR
activities. On the other hand, TTNET that is responsible to its
subscribers for providing continuous connection to the Internet and
having been redirecting the users to the Phorm’s site, has remained
silent since 18 September 2012. Alternative Informatics Association has
called the Information and Communications Technologies Authority (ICTA)
for inspecting the system of Phorm and made an official complaint to the
prosecution office on 17 October 2012.

Some recent cases in Turkey have also proven that such events accelerate
the production and circulation of hate speech online. The control on the
social networks through the instant access denial is justified with
sharing on social media. Particularly the Prime Minister’s statement
that “There must be regulations against Islam-phobia in Muslim
countries” ignores the hate speech in different areas (political hate
speech, hate speech against women, foreigners, immigrants, sexual
identity, belief and sect- oriented hate speech). Given that even the
existing laws are not completely and properly applied, is very difficult
if not impossible to prevent hate speech through laws. From this
perspective, Internet users must be very well informed about hate speech
as well as the limits of democracy and freedom of expression. There is
also a need to carry out educational activities in this field.

“Safe Internet”, which is a filtering application, was carried into
effect on 22 November 2011 by ICTA. This filtering is composed of
family&child filtering and standard user options and the filtering words
designated by ICTA are sent to all ISPs. Therefore, the words and
websites to which access is prohibited/denied are determined by the
State itself. Moreover, the application is not transparent at all. It
narrows the freedom of expression and imposes one single family/child
projection on the citizens. Protection of children and family cannot be
a justification for the State’s censorship. The filters in question can
absolutely not offer a solution to safety issues. Safe Internet use can
be ensured not with filters but through digital literacy. Among the OSCE
countries, the only country that allows central filtering is,
unfortunately, Turkey.

Based on information, currently access to 20 792 websites
is blocked in Turkey.

What has happened on the Internet in Turkey in 2012? “Progress
What has happened on the Internet in Turkey in 2012?: “Progress Report””

200 websites blocked by the Ministry of Health (only in Turkish, 21.09.2012),

To the attention of all internet users and citizens!…(on PHORM in Turkey)

Complaint against Phorm (only in Turkish)

Using Social Media for Hate Speech is not Freedom of Expression!
Using Social Media for Hate Speech is not Freedom of Expression!

Disabled web: Number of blocked websites in Turkey by category (only in

EDRi-gram: Turkish plans to use IDs for accessing the Internet (10.10.2012)

(Contribution by Tuğrul Çomu – EDRi observer Alternative Informatics
Association – Turkey)