Turkey adopts internet restrictions

2014-02-06 11:41
Turkey's parliament has adopted a deepened set of restrictions for the internet. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Turkey's parliament has adopted a deepened set of restrictions for the internet. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Ankara - Turkey's lower house of parliament late on Wednesday adopted a bill that would increase state control over the internet, to the concern of the opposition and rights groups, Turkish media reported.

The text would notably permit the government telecoms agency to block access to websites without court authorisation if they are deemed to violate privacy or with content seen as "insulting".

Turks' ability to go online is already far from free, activists say, with thousands of websites blocked in recent years. It makes a comparatively huge number of requests to block online content, Google data shows.

YouTube was unavailable for two years until 2010 because of material deemed insulting to modern Turkey's still-revered founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, while fellow video-sharing website Vimeo became off-limits only in January.

But the new measures go further, allowing authorities to keep a record of someone's internet activity for up to two years, including Google searches and interactions on social networks like Facebook.

The most disturbing component, said Yaman Akdeniz, law professor at Bilgi private university in Istanbul, is "Orwellian" new powers for the Telecommunications Communications Presidency (TIB).

This authority will be able to request and collect communications and traffic data from hosting and service providers - without a court order or a justified reason, Akdeniz said.

In the same way, the head of the TIB can block any website deemed to have infringed someone's privacy or be discriminatory or insulting, or to protect young people from unsuitable content.

"Turkey is certainly moving toward a more restrictive policy which includes mass surveillance measures on all internet users," Akdeniz said.

"More blocking and more control measures will move Turkey away from the European Union in terms of internet policy, perhaps a few steps closer to China."

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