Turkey: wordpress.com ban inspires firestorm of criticism

Turkey blockpage
Turkey blockpage
(screen shot of the blocked WordPress.com) “Access to this site has been suspended in accordance with decision no: 2007/195 of T.C. Fatih 2.Civil Court of First Instance.”(Source: National Blockpages Gallery | Global Voices Advocacy Blog)

Matthew Mullenweg, founding developer of the popular WordPress blogging platform, has received a letter from the lawyers acting on behalf of a Turkish Islamic-creationist, Adnan Oktar, aka Harun Yahya, claiming to be responsible for the blanket ban on blogs hosted on the wordpress.com blogging platform in Turkey. On August 17, 2007, the Turkish Fatih Second Civil Court of First Instance blocked access to all wordpress.com blogs in response to a suit filed by Adnan Oktar’s lawyers on the grounds that blogs hosted on the platform published allegedly defamatory and “unlawful” statements about their client. The Court’s decision resulted in Turkish Internet users being unable to access more than one millions weblogs hosted wordpress.com.

We have applied to you to remove the unlawful statements regarding my client Mr. Adnan Oktar (…) in your blogs. The number of our attempts to inform and warn you regarding these defamation blogs must have been at least twenty, many times through your support page, a couple of times to your legal department and we even sent a regular mail to Mr. Matt Mullenweg. Most of our attempts were unanswered. So we have become obliged to apply to Turkish judicial courts to stop this defamation executed through your services. By the decision of Fatih 2nd Civil Court of First Instance, number 2007/195, access to WordPress.com has been blocked in Turkey.

It has also been reported by Monsters and Critics that the court ordered Turk Telecom (Turk Telekomunikasyon) to block few specific websites. But, when the authors of those sites moved the allegedly defamatory content to other blogs hosted on the wordpress.com domain “we applied to the court to order that all websites of WordPress be blocked,” kerim Kalkan, a lawyer for Adnan Oktar, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).

Adnan Oktar’s lawyers are accusing Edip Yuksel, a Turkish writer and rival of their client, of using wordpress.com blogs to publish “slander” about Adnan Oktar. They are asking wordpress.com to dismiss all of the blogs responsible for the alleged defamatory content:

Since Edip Yuksel and his crime organization could easily start new blogs in your site, they had even launched a campaign in opening defamation blogs regarding my client and had explicitly expressed this organized endeavor in his defamation blogs: “In order to make people hear our voice, let everyone start new blogs from websites such as http://blogcu.com or http://wordpress.com and let them copy the posts on those blogs and paste them to their own. You can start several at once, if possible. Please remember that the name you will give to the blogs, should be related to Adnan Oktar or Harun Yahya in order to find them quickly through Google search. If the names are already taken, you can solve this problem by using characters such as “_” (Adnan_Oktar) or numbers such as AdnanOktar100, Adnan_Oktar_50.

we demand you to remove and prohibit any blogs in your site that contain my client’s name adnan oktar or his pen name harun yahya or various combination of these 4 names.

In an article entitled “Shooting the messenger” posted on The Guardian's Comment is Free blog, Ali Eteraz expressed the belief that “WordPress is caught up in a long-standing political and cultural battle between two competing Muslim groups,” adding that “the ban should be seen as the first sign of the kind of censorship that an Islamist Turkish government is willing to accept.” Some commentators, however, seem more sceptical about Ali Eteraz's conclusion: “The author is simply trying to malign the government. It's not the fault of the Turkish government that the court has passed this order. Censorship in Turkey existed before the AK party came into power. To say that banning a blog is part of an ‘Islamic censorship’ is completely ridiculous,” said nadeem.

The case has caught the attention of the Turkish media and already made it to the front page of one of the top newspapers in the country. On the Turkish Blogsphere, and espacially within the wordpress.com community, two posts by WordPress founding developer Matthew Mullenweg (Blocked in Turkey and Why We’re Blocked in Turkey: Adnan Oktar) kicked off a storm of comments and reactions. One of these comments addressed the consequences of the censorship policy for Turkey:

I hope that some Turkish offical reads the comments here and takes note of a few facts:
Ban one blog site= lots of publicity that presents Turkey with a very negative image
Ban one blog site= internal problems become international public news (If they are not familiar with the items that are enclosed with […] I would like to point out that is other blogs who have picked up the story and it is spreading over the web.)
Ban one blog site= places questions about Turkish attitudes about human rights
Ban one blog site= based on the wishes of a man who is being prosecuted for the same type of crime, leaves a question on who is running the country- the officials or the criminals?

  Ali Eteraz noted that a Turkish Canadian blogger is planning a blogger’s revenge plan of action, “for those who are really upset”:

I put out a call for all bloggers, on all platforms, to make silly jokes and bad puns and hey, some defamatory statements about anal-retentitiveness while we’re at it about the apparently both well-connected and thin-skinned ADNAN OKTAR or his pen name HARUN YAHYA.

This will cause Turkey either to extend the ban to ALL blogging platforms, including mainstream newspapers such as the Guardian and the New York Times, or to drop their block against WordPress. Such legal actions have to be asserted in all cases, or they must be dropped.

Digital inspiration is providing this work-around to bypass the ban on wordpress.com in Turkey:

To bypass the government ban, WordPress.com bloggers and blog readers in Turkey can configure the internet connection settings of their web browser and point the DNS server to that of OpenDNS instead of using the default DNS server of the Turk Telecom ISP.

DNS work-around

Another user is presenting a Phantomix, a new “working FreeWare Tool for bypassing censorhip” configured to use the Tor and Privoxy softwares.

A blogger Kylapasha from Islamabad has designed a badge to show Pakistani support for Turkish Bloggers:

When the Pakistani block happened, some nice folks made banners to put on their blogs. So I decided to return the favour. I’ve made a few, feel free to download and use them.

Friends of Turkish Bloggers

Please find more badges here

25 comments

  • Excuse me, but I am the blogger who originated the plan of action to which you refer. It needs to be said that I am not a Turkish blogger, just a Canadian blogger concerned with the rights of the Turkish people to read what they please and the rights of over a million and a half innocent bloggers at WordPress not to be censored.

  • […] Turkey: wordpress.com ban inspires firestorm of criticism (via Pandemia) […]

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  • Well done, great blog and great posts!!!

  • […] Turkey: wordpress.com ban inspires firestorm of criticism […]

  • Ahioma Twishnku

    This ban is very logical blog sites are not for aspersions,smear campagins or abusives.With this bans people should understand why blog sites are use for.

  • Can it be that still today WordPress is blocked by Turkey. Does this not reek of yesteryears where one could not spit on the sidewalk, women couldn’t wear slacks to school, and one never heard the word hell on radio or TV lest they be banned?

    Does the Turkish government not understand the difference between one blog and a million? Unfortunately, NOT. While I think the Turkish government has made tremendous inroads of late, they still are far behind in fully understanding freedom of press, let alone blocking millions of the people who publish daily on their blogs. Can no one explain this in simple Turkish to the powers that be in Fatih who wish for Sharia law?

  • TJ

    I’ve been using OpenDNS for quite a while, and I’m sorry to report that it alone does not seem to get around the ban. My router uses OpenDNS and all computers in the house use the router, but just to be sure I changed the individual PC settings to OpenDNS and it still comes up as blocked. To the poster who supports the ban 1) I have serious doubts about the “slander and defamation” Oktar alleges and 2) banning all WordPress blogs for one person’s actions is akin to banning pens because someone wrote something illegal with it.

    In summary, there are two issues here: whether the speech in question should be banned and how to block access to the disputed speech. I think the judge got it dead wrong on both counts here.

  • TJ

    D’oh. I forgot to clear the browser cache before trying the blocked sites. OpenDNS seems to have saved the day. Why my PCs continued to use Turk Telecom’s DNS after the router was explicitly configured for OpenDNS is beyond me, but I’m happy to configure each one individually.

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