Turkish Internet Access No Delight: New "Orwellian" Restrictions Put in Place

By Steve Anderson February 06, 2014

While these days, the idea of a truly free and open Internet seems a bit shaky, what with the ongoing net neutrality debates going on as well as the assorted chicanery coming from the NSA and similar groups, it's still a comparatively free place to express ideas and, in many cases, buy said ideas. But in Turkey, the idea of a free and open Internet is a much dimmer prospect, as evidenced by a set of new laws designed to restrain, at least somewhat, content online.

Called by some “a fresh assault...on freedom of expression,” as well as taking on issues of finding information and giving help to investigative journalism, the new laws offer a lot of restraint in terms of what can and cannot be found or posted online in Turkey. The new laws are set to expand several similar restrictions placed on Internet access back in 2007 that put Turkey's Internet controls on par with China in terms of Web censorship, as determined by a December transparency report released from Google.

More specifically, under the terms of the law, the Telecommunications Communications Presidency (TIB) of Turkey is permitted to block access to individual websites under several conditions, and without any kind of court approval. Such conditions include violations of privacy, or with content regarded as what the law's language refers to as “insulting.” Additionally, the TIB will be able to at any time request both traffic information and individual users' communications from hosting providers without any need of a court order, supplemented by the fact that earlier laws already required hosting providers to hold as much as two years' worth of data on individual users. Such powerful measures couched in vague language led some—like Istanbul's Bilgi university law professor Yaman Akdeniz—to refer to the law as “Orwellian.” Further criticism of the law came from the opposition party in Turkey's Hasan Oren, referring to the new law as part of a larger campaign to “implement fascism.”

Oren isn't alone in criticism of the new law, joined by Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake, who said Brussels needed to send a clear message about such policy being “unacceptable,” as well as noting that “the rule of law and fundamental freedoms are at the center of EU policy.” Further criticism came in from groups like Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and even Turkey's own Industry and Business Association, who noted that the laws in question would “...increase censorship and deter investors.”

The Turkish government, meanwhile, dismissed many of these concerns out of hand, saying that there was “no such thing as Internet censorship,” and that the country enjoys “freedom of press.” Some, however, note that the moves to add censorship to Internet access in Turkey comes at roughly the same time that Turkey's Prime Minister is facing a corruption probe involving several close associates.

In general, Internet censorship is seldom good. The point of the Internet is to promulgate ideas and allow same to move freely from place to place, where such ideas may be acted upon to produce beneficial results for all concerned. It doesn't always work out that way, of course, but better to let 10 harmful ideas through than block one idea that could have helped. The idea that such moves will restrict trade and investment in the country is also a clear point needing considered in the face of augmented censorship measures. The Internet in Turkey is under siege, and hopefully, those involved won't stand long for this measure.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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