The Information Technologies Board (BTK) has modified its proposed Internet filtering system and postponed its introduction for further testing and in order to submit the new version to 10 days of public consultation.
The BTK announced on its website on 4 August that it is postponing implementation of its directive on “Procedures and Principles regarding Safe Internet Use” from 22 August to 22 November.
Under the modified system, Turkish Internet users will no longer be obliged to install the BTK filtering software on their computers and the number of alternative versions of the software has been reduced from four to two (“family” and “child”).
The original version of the BTK directive was referred to the Council of State by the Turkish human rights website Bianet.org, which questioned its legality.
Reporters Without Borders takes note of the BTK’s concessions but still thinks the directive should be abandoned altogether, as thousands of demonstrators demanded on 15 May in response to the BTK’s original version.
Second thoughts about Internet filtering?
Reporters Without Borders notes that the Information Technologies Board (BTK), an offshoot of the prime minister’s office, organized a forum with civil society and Internet sector representatives on 25 May to discuss the Internet filtering system that the government plans to introduce on 22 August.
“The initiative was laudable, but came too late,” the press freedom organization said.
More that 50 representatives of civil society organizations and Internet sector companies, along with officials from the High Council for Telecommunications (TIB), took part in the forum, held on the campus of Istanbul’s Bilgi University. However, all the parties stuck to their positions and no agreement was reached.
“The authorities finally seem ready to dialogue following all the opposition in Turkey and abroad to their Internet filtering project,” Reporters Without Borders said. “But no guarantee has been given that this outragous mechanism for Internet censorship is to be abandoned.”
Websites that oppose the project meanwhile continue to be the target of cyber-attacks, as do left-wing and Kurdish sites. One of the latest victims was the daily Yüksekova Haber’s site, which experienced a DDoS attack on 20 May.
Cyber-attacks on websites that backed protests against Internet censorship-18 May 2011
Several websites that backed anti-censorship demonstrations held on 15 May have been intermittently inaccessible since then because of Distributed Denial of Service attacks. The targets include the site of the left-wing daily Birgün, the news site haber.sol.org.tr and the media freedom website Bianet.
“We are going to carry on publishing under alternative addresses in case we should become the subject of similar attacks in the future,” Bianet announced today after being inaccessible for eight hours yesterday. “If this should occur, the alternative address will be published on Twitter and via other channels.”
More than 10,000 people took part in the demonstrations against online censorship that were held in Istanbul and around 30 other Turkish cities on 15 May. They were protesting against changes to media and Internet censorship legislation, above all a provision that would make it obligatory to install online filtering software on all home computers. The measure is due to take effect on 22 August.
Both the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Union have condemned the measure as an attack on freedom of expression and have asked Turkey not to implement it.
“This regulation would limit the right of individuals to access information they want,” OSCE media freedom representative Dunja Mijatovic said yesterday. Natasha Butler, the spokesperson for the EU commissioner for enlargement, said the targets of any filtering measures should be selected carefully and should be “proportional.”
Reporters Without Borders supports the OSCE and EU positions and urges the Turkish authorities to withdraw this measure. It also calls on them to end the censorship that is already arbitrarily affecting thousands of websites, and to start by amending Law 5651 on Internet crimes.
Government agency wants to install filtering software on every computer
6 May 2011
Reporters Without Borders condemns a plan by the Information Technologies Board (BTK), an offshoot of the prime minister’s office, to force the Turkish public to submit to content filtering in order to gain access to the Internet.
Under new regulations announced by the BTK on 22 February and due to take effect on 22 August, Internet users will have to choose between one of four Internet filtering options: family, children, domestic or standard. One of these filters will have to be installed on every computer for it to have online access. The list of websites blocked by each filter is classified.
“The BTK is not fooling anyone when it claims to be rendering a service to Internet users by giving them a choice between a lot of restrictions and fewer restrictions,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This measure is a complete violation of both the European Convention on Human Right and Turkey’s own constitution. Everyone should be guaranteed unrestricted access to the Internet.”
Shielding children from certain kinds of online content is perfectly legitimate but parents should be able to choose where or not they install a filter on a computer and should be able to turn it off when they want. Such a tool should under no circumstances be imposed on Internet users.
This is yet another case of Turkish Internet users having to submit to an arbitrary decision by one of the many government agencies that regulate the Internet.
Reporters Without Borders urges the BTK to follow the example set by the High Council for Telecommunications (TIB), which finally abandoned its plan to introduce keyword filtering. And it urges all the other entities that control telecommunications to stop trying to outdo each other with censorship measures that just undermine their credibility in the public’s eyes.
Lawyers representing the Turkish human rights website Bianet.org have asked the Council of State to overturn the measure. Access to Bianet was blocked in many Internet cafés in June 2007 by filtering software using a blacklist compiled by government security officials. The blocking was finally lifted after Bianet approached the company that made the software.
“But we don’t want to experience the same problem again as a result of new measures targeting independent, alternative or free initiatives,” Bianet editor in chief Erol Önderoglu said.
Turkey is on the list of “countries under surveillance” in the latest version of the “Enemies of the Internet” report that Reporters Without Borders released on 11 March. More than 7,000 websites are currently blocked in Turkey, in most cases without reference to any court.