According to the Associated Press, officials in the Republic of Turkey have decided to limit the use of the internet through “filters” in order to “protect children from explicit material.” The Information and Communications Technologies Authority, more readily known by its Turkish initials “B.T.K.,” shall require ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to offer four filtering services to their customers starting August 2011, based on a governmental ruling from February of this year. These four filtering services/packages are categorized as “family,” “children,” “domestic,” or “standard” under the newly established “Rules and Procedures of the Safety of Internet Use.”
On principle, the premise seems sound enoughÂ—offering services to customers based upon complaints/requests. However, filtering software is available for purchase and even free for personal or business use. Moreover, the government’s “intervention” does not allow for personal choice. Under this new system, customers have no choice but to subscribe to one of the filtering “options.”
The names themselves also sound quite orthodox, if unimaginative. Yet, no description of the filtering service parameters, under any of the four options, shall be given to those paying for them. No lists of banned, prohibited, or even not-suggested websites shall be provided, nor shall the members of the group who decide the appropriateness of website content give the reasoning behind their choices.
On May 22, 2007, Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer signed finalized the enactment of Law 5651, which allows authorities to block access to certain websites that contain insults, perceived or real, towards the founder of Turkey Mustafa Kemal AtatÃ¼rk. Article 8 of Law 5651 on the “Prevention of crimes in the computer domain” calls for web content to be blocked if it violates a 1951 law on “crimes against AtatÃ¼rk.” The article says, “When there is sufficient evidence of the improper aspect of content… access must be blocked.” Beyond punishment for “crimes against AtatÃ¼rk,” Law 5651 also punishes for “inciting suicide” (article 84), “sexual abuse of children” (article 103), “prostitution” (article 227), and “inciting drug use” (article 190).
Again, all of these seem quite standard. The use of filters for these purposes, if in one case inherently nation specific, seems for the benefit of not only families and particularly children, but for the perceived “good” of the citizens of the republic.
However, the most recent actions of the Turkish government, which seem to build upon those made prior, also elicit not a few questions:
Why, if the people of Turkey are so concerned with the state of their internet access being far to broad and free, would they take to the streets in over 30 cities and, in the capital of Istanbul, in numbers estimated in the tens of thousands?
What is the true main goal of an unexplained limiting of the rights and freedoms of those same people, who police in some areas tried to prevent from protesting?
And to what will this new power the government has given itself lead?
John Palfrey of Harvard Law said in 2008 that, as he was hearing at the time, Turkey was on the knife’s edge, between one world and another, just as Istanbul sits, on the Bosporus, at the juncture between “East and West.” Using current events as a scale, it seems as if the nation is starting to lean in its dance along the “knife’s edge.”
So, last questions:
Is this move by the Turkish officials an indication that, in regard to information, the Republic of Turkey is moving unerringly towards the filtered and dictatorial?
And will the people allow it?