Access to more than 77,000 websites, including the major social media outlets Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, has been blocked in Turkey since 2008 by orders of courts, prosecutors or the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB), a daily reported on Monday.
According to a story in the Cumhuriyet daily, the cumulative total of website bans in Turkey since 2008, either temporary or permanent, reached 77,521 at the end of March this year, a figure which was only four in 2006.
The Cumhuriyet story reported that there were 6,129 cases of website bans in the first three months of 2015, in which TİB alone banned 94 percent of them. The majority of the bans in Turkey since 2008 were due to adult content or illegal sharing.
According a bill proposed by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government in September of 2014 and recently passed by Parliament as part of an omnibus bill, when there is online content that “threatens people’s right to life, threatens their security or property, threatens national security and public order, poses a threat to general health or threatens people’s rights and freedoms,” TİB will then demand that the content be removed or block the website containing it upon a request from the Prime Ministry or the ministry relevant to the case, without seeking a court order.
One government attempt to ban access to websites failed last October when the Constitutional Court overturned an amendment that gave the state-controlled TİB the power to block access to websites without a court order. According to the overturned amendment, within four hours of a request from TİB, Internet service providers (ISPs) were required to block a specified website. As per the amendment, TİB had the right to block access to websites for reasons of national security, maintaining public order and preventing a crime from being committed without needing a court order.
Access to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were temporarily blocked on April 6 via a court order issued over the extensive sharing of photographs of a terrorist holding a gun to the head of an İstanbul prosecutor hours before the prosecutor being held hostage was killed.
The decision to ban millions of Turkish users’ access to the social media sites was made by İstanbul 1st Penal Court of Peace Judge Bekir Altun on April 6. Altun said in his detailed order that some websites engaged in “terrorism propaganda” in support of the terrorist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) by publishing photographs, videos and audio files while covering the hostage crisis on March 31. The judge accused those who had published such content of endangering public order and security.
Access to Twitter was restored on the night of April 6 after the micro-blogging site complied with Turkey’s request to remove photographs of the prosecutor. Facebook also said in a statement that it had complied with a Turkish court order requiring it to restrict access to some content or face a block on its service. A company spokesman said it would appeal the order.
Also that same night, a court ordered a ban on access to Google if the website failed to remove the controversial photographs. However, the website later complied with the court order and no ban was enacted.