Campaign Against Sites Being Banned in Turkey

This is an issue I have been meaning to blog about for a while: many sites, including YouTube and WordPress, have gotten banned by Turkish courts over the last few years.  YouTube has been down for more than 3-4 months now. 

A few Turkish bloggers have launched a protest campaign and 206 bloggers have joined by creating a landing page for their sites that mocks the bans.

The sites being shut down is a problem, and I am glad there’s a voice being raised in protest.  However, I think the Turkish internet community needs to address the issue with more mature moves in parallel.

The sites are shut down not as censorship, but as a result of court decisions.  This is not dissimilar to Napster being shut down in the U.S.  And, contrary to some of the commentary on blogs, not all bans have to do with insults to Ataturk (although a few of the bans are for those insults, due to the fact that it’s illegal to insult Ataturk in Turkey) , but are a result of civil libel suits by private individuals.  In other words, the site bans are in accordance with the legal system here.  BTW, I am not saying I agree with any of the particular laws, but I don’t categorically have a problem with a system where laws are being enforced.

The primary problem I see is the lack of understanding Turkish courts have about the internet, and especially about user-generated content.  It seems to be that there needs to be specialized courts designated as venues for online content related prosecution.

Having commented on the problem, let me point out the role (or lack thereof) of Turkish NGOs that have the responsibility to lobby on behalf of the internet industry.  The two that come to mind are Türkiye Bilişim Vakfı and Türkiye Bilişim Derneği.  Their lack of leadership and intelligent position on the problem of banned websites in Turkey is embarrassing.

BTW, it’s also funny how the comments in the Techcrunch post (whose commentary on the issue was unfortunately over-simplified) on the issue tumbled into a fight around sexual preferences of Ataturk! 🙂 

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