Turkey is a country that has been in the headlines in recent years for a number of incidents that include censorship online. In 2014 the Turkish government briefly blocked sites such as Twitter and Youtube in an attempt to curb political recordings being released and the social media platform being used to discuss such issues.
Turkish Twitter unblocking
Through pressure both in Turkey and internationally both sites were eventually unblocked although by this point many users had already circumvented Turkish web blocks by using services such as a VPN or changing their DNS servers in less complicated cases. The internet allowed information regarding circumvention techniques to spread quickly and Turkish users are now some of the most well informed in areas of accessing a free and open internet via alternative methods.
Although the dust from last years Turkish web blocks has now settled a new storm has been brewing. Back at the start of 2014 a new law was passed in Turkish parliament that will allow the government to block any website being accessible in Turkey within 4 hours. The reason behind the blocks according to Turkish officials will include web sites and information deemed to be a threat to the national security of Turkey a concern for public health or likely to encourage crime or public disorder.
Concern growing amongst Turkish users
The terms used for blocking are very loose and would possibly allow the government to again easily block services such as Twitter if it deemed it to be being used to encourage anti-government protest or sentiment.
The Gezi Park protests in Turkey in 2013 became one of the pinnacle moments for social media, traditional media in Turkey was essentially barred from covering the protests but the citizens of Turkey took to social media sites such as Twitter to inform the world what was happening. The same protestors who took action in 2013 are unhappy with the new law allowing the Turkish government to block web content within 4 hours due to Turkey having a long history of censorship.
The government have defended the law stating that within 72 hours of the blocks the actions will need to be approved by a court. With Turkey currently sitting 154th out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index it is unlikely to alleviate Turkish internet users fears any time soon.
Further worry for Turkish opposition
Issues in Turkey relating to online freedoms have been rather quiet of late and the latest law is seen as well timed with national elections planned for June. With a strong opposition of the government it may give Turkish authorities the possibility of blocking opposition material thus censoring information which Turkish users may wish to access. Like many countries of late such censorship will also be great cause for concern for bloggers and other Turkish activists who speak out against the government.
The new law would force bloggers to go underground and limit their ability to speak freely under their own identity. Such a move would seriously impact on the legitimacy of writers.
Turkish authorities again defending the law claiming that in the 90’s citizens were asking for more freedoms and today claiming they feel too free and want security to be heightened. While the online safety and security of internet users is now a paramount concern, the way in which Turkish authorities have acted in the past is cause for great concern. New Turkish censorship laws will only push more users to make use of anonymising services such as a VPN.
Turkish image courtesy of Vlado at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Censorship computer image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net