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"We're Not Like China!" Turkey Bleats, About Censorship Law That Makes Them More Like China

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, January 15 2014

Erdogan poster: "Istanbul is Ready, Target 2023" (Myrat)

The Turkish media outlet Hurriyet Daily News reported that a draft bill by the ruling party contains legislation expanding the government's right to surveil and restrict the Internet. If passed, the government could record and store Internet users' information (browser history, Internet searches, social network activity) for up to two years.

The Justice and Development Party's (AKP) legislation would also clear the way for authorities to censor more keywords, which could lead to a significant uptick in blocked sites and pages.

Hurriyet observed that the changes to Internet law were “concealed” in legislation to restructure the Family and Social Policy Ministry. The changes are meant to “protect the family, children and youth from items on the Internet that encourage drug addiction, sexual abuse and suicide.”

Under the new law, Internet service providers would have a mere four hours to block a site after receiving an official order, and the Turkish transport minister and communication agency could make such a request without judicial oversight.

Content that could be considered harmful to children, however, can already be legally blocked in Turkey. The proposed changes will also allow the authorities to block content deemed a violation of personal rights or privacy, even defamation, Yaman Akdeniz, a professor of law at Instanbul's Bilgi University, explained to Deutsche Welle.

Bianet asked Serhat Koç, a telecommunications lawyer for Turkey's Pirate Party, about the changes proposed in the draft bill.

The bottom line? "If the draft [bill is] implemented, life will harder for internet users in Turkey. Censorship of citizen journalism, scientific research and social media will be routine," Koç said.

Koç says the potential blocking of hate speech is one of the more problematic parts of the new legislation because interpretation of hate speech can be so subjective. He worries many websites will be blocked as a result of it.

It is particularly troubling that this new legislation is being pushed at the same time as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan seeks more control over the judicial branch while simultaneously trying to extract his administration from a corruption scandal. Things are spiraling out of Erdogan's control, and the new law is a “knee-jerk reaction” said Akdeniz.

In response to comparisons made between Turkey's new law and China, AKP spokesperson Hüseyin Çelik said “Turkey is not China and will never be like China in this manner. Aren’t we all in consensus on having some laws about social media and Internet media? There can be regulations based on world standards anywhere in the world.”

And there are! Not only in China, but in Russia and Iran and Pakistan and Vietnam, just to name a few. What a stellar crowd to join, Turkey.

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