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EU Fines Turkey for Blocking Google Sites

BY Julia Wetherell | Wednesday, December 19 2012

An EU court has ruled against a blocking of the Google Sites service in Turkey, in a case filed by a Turkish citizen. A 2009 ruling by a regional court in the southwestern city of Denizli blocked all pages hosted on sites.google.com, apparently after a single page was found to insult Republic of Turkey founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Defamation of Atatürk or Turkish identity is illegal in the country.

The plaintiff in the EU trial brought the case to the European Court of Human Rights in early 2010, after he was unable to access his own Google Sites pages, which were academic in nature and had no relation to the offending page. The court determined that the wholesale blocking of Google Sites was in violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which governs freedom of expression. Turkey, which has long been an associate member of the European governmental organizations and began formal accession negotiations with the EU in 2005, was ordered to compensate the plaintiff 8,500 euros.

As the EU’s telecommunications policies increasingly favor a free and open Internet, Turkey’s membership bid could be threatened by a long record of online censorship. A two-year ban on YouTube was lifted and then reinstated in 2010 over videos that insulted Atatürk, and other Google services, such as Maps, are often difficult to access. In 2011, crowds across the nation protested the “death of the Internet” when a controversial plan to filter all web content into an array of
government-sanctioned “safe” Internet options caused an uproar. Though the plan was ultimately redrafted to give users the option to surf a “safe” or an unfiltered Internet, 20,000 sites are still suspected to be blocked by the government, and legislation that would require citizens to submit their national identity number to get online is reportedly under consideration.

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