Turkey: Internet Report on digital rights 2012
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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, turk.internet.com 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 http://www.enphormasyon.org, 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 Engelliweb.com information, currently access to 20 792 websites is blocked in Turkey.
What has happened on the Internet in Turkey in 2012? “Progress
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!
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)