Turkey: Internet censorship is getting harsher

By EDRi · January 15, 2014

The law proposal and its justification which have been presented to the
Presidency of the Turkish Parliament for the approval by the  Justice
and Development Party about the change in “The regulation of
internet-based broadcasting and the struggle with crimes that are
committed via these broadcasting” is a threatening text in many ways.
The motion, which is expected to be passed inattentively within an
omnibus bill will not solve the existing problems. It includes
suggestions that would deteriorate the current status.

Firstly, in the justification part of the motion, there is no reference
to the decision of the European Human Rights Court against Turkey with
regard to this law (no. 5651). This decision, which has been made as a
consequence of Ahmet Yıldırım Case that Alternative Informatics
Association took to the ECtHR, approved the opposition of this law
against freedom of expression. What Internet users need in Turkey is a
reform of this law in terms of rights and freedoms and all of the access
restrictions should be excluded from the regulations. However, the
motion suggests the exact opposite by centralizing and empowering the
access restrictions.

The motion also pays no attention to the views of NGOs which are
important actors of the subject. Each NGO that works within the
informatics field in Turkey is strongly criticizing this law. Moreover,
not only NGOs but also a great number of lawyers, bureaucrats,
politicians and internet publishers also criticize the law. In contrast
to the motion, they do not consider access restrictions as a solution.

It’s really sad to see the motion uses “the discrimination card” to
justify the restrictions. Censorship should never be considered as a
solution to solve racism, hatred speech and sexism. Since we have lots
of examples of how the government interprets and enforces this kind of
laws in the recent history of Turkey, we’re concerned that this
justification will cause much more dangerous enforcements in the next days.

The motion proposes to apply IP and URL based access restriction methods
along with the domain name restriction which is the current restriction
method in Turkey. Also the motion adds the term of “et cetera” to define
the restrictions which may help the government to easily apply different
and dangerous restriction methods. As if IP and URL based access
restriction methods weren’t scary and dangerous enough!
By the application of the URL based access restriction method actively,
the internet censorship level in Turkey will reach the internet
censorship level in China in a few years. To achieve these methods the
ISPs will have to make some changes and configurations on their systems
which will lead us to a slow, controlling and monitored Internet.

On the other hand, the ISP Union’s proposition will threaten net
neutrality and help large companies to entirely dominate the market.
Only the companies with the proper ban and control utilities can be a
member of this unity and the other non-member companies may not provide
internet services any more which leads some of them to file for
bankruptcy and hand the market in to the big players. Decreasing agent
numbers on the market will help the government to control and monitor
users much more easily. The increase of the controlling and surveillance
because of the weak competition on the market will be a threat for our
rights and freedoms and especially for net neutrality.

The projected period for the ISPs to retain data is 1-2 years which is a
very long period. The Government’s need for retaining data for this long
brings to mind the possibility of using the data to profile people for
various purposes or even worse to tag them. Considering all the subjects
we mentioned above, it’s safe to say this regulation will make the
situation much worse. We believe that amending Law No: 5651 will only
empower the parts of the law which are criticized by the people for a
very long time.

As we stated in our Association’s “The State of Internet in Turkey in
2013 Report” what should be done is not to extend censorship and to ban
policies but to bridge digital divide, to popularize the usage of
internet and to improve the new media literacy.

As the Alternative Informatics Association we are in the favour of a
freer and less controlled internet where people freely express
themselves and access all the information they need without any
surveillance. Unfortunately, this regulation ignores the objectivity of
the networks, makes it easier to restrict the freedom of speech,
incresing the control and surveillance on the internet by establishing
Carrying a motion with this content will cause the internet in Turkey to
plunge into the darkness permanently.

We invite the members of the Parliament who legislate law on behalf of
internet users, the users, the NGOs which represent them and the subject
matter experts to consider the verdict of ECtHR.

We also invite our citizens to look after the Internet and to support
the events actively which will be held Worldwide against censorship,
control and surveillance acts.

2013 State of the Internet in Turkey (only in Turkish)ürkiye’de_İnternet’in_2013_Durumu

Internet Censorship is Getting Deeper (original article in Turkish)

(Contribution by EDRi member Alternative Informatics Association – Turkey)