By Heini Järvinen

On 20 January 2015, two Turkish law professors sent a legal notice to Twitter representatives in Turkey and the US demanding to cease the removal of content and blocking individual accounts that have been requested by Turkish government. The notice points out examples of alleged violations of freedom of expression in court orders restricting internet access.

Assistant Professor Kerem Altiparmak and Professor Yaman Akdeniz warned the the US social media company that they would “take all possible forms of legal action in both Turkey and the United States” if the blocking continues. The notice was sent right after the Turkish government brought before parliament a bill attempting to reintroduce some elements of legislation granting the Turkish Telecommunications Authority (TIB) the power to block websites without a court order, and that was annulled by the the Turkish Constitutional Court on 2 October 2014. The notice was also published on the website privacy.cyber-rights.org.tr. Twitter has not yet so far responded to the notice.

Twitter’s transparency report about the second half of 2014 reveals that the number of removal requests from Turkey is far above the number of requests from all other countries combined. Online censorship has raised serious concerns in Turkey during recent years. The government is repeatedly taking measures to tighten its control over the Internet that remains one of the few channels for free speech in the country.

Altiparmak and Akdeniz have previously initiated several successful legal actions related to freedom of speech and online censorship in Turkey. They are now in the shortlist of the “Campaigning Award Nominees 2015” of the Index on Censorship, a non-profit organisation campaigning for freedom of expression.

Sadly, Turkish citizens may soon be less able to hope for protection of their rights from the European Union. The current draft text on net neutrality (thanks to a suggestion from Sweden) supports the new Turkish approach to censorship. It proposes that internet intermediaries should be free to restrict content if they are implementing a legal obligation (for which Turkey has been condemned in the European Court of Justice already) or an order of an administrative authority (an approach already condemned by the Turkish constitutional court) or any unspecified other “measure” (like is now being proposed in Turkey for online intermediaries). We can only hope that there are some EU Member States that still remember adopting the European Charter of Fundamental Rights in 2009 and what it means not just in the EU, but globally.

Legal notice of 20.01.2015
http://cyber-rights.org.tr/docs/Twitter_ihtar_ENG.pdf

Turkish academics threaten Twitter with legal action (24.01.2015)
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2015/01/turkish-academics-threaten-twitter-legal-action-150124175734757.html

Turkish academics threaten Twitter with legal action (24.02.2015)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWuSxGOq5cA

Is Twitter giving in to Turkish censorship? (19.20.2015)
http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/02/turkey-twitter-collaborating-with-turkish-censorship.html

Twitter transparency report: Removal requests July 1 – December 31, 2014
https://transparency.twitter.com/removal-requests/2014/jul-dec

Three years of increased #transparency … and counting (09.02.2015)
https://blog.twitter.com/2015/three-years-of-increased-transparency-and-counting

EDRi-gram: Yet another internet blocking law in Turkey (11.02.2015)
https://edri.org/yet-another-internet-blocking-law-turkey/

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