Turkey: Bloggers Banning Themselves

If you are a long-time follower of the Turkish blogosphere you will have undoubtedly heard about the Turkish ban on WordPress….and the periodic bans on YouTube, and on the social-networking widget site Slide, oh..and now on Dailymotion as well. I think that is all.. Isn't it? It is hard to keep track now-a-days and frustrating. Turkish bloggers feel the same way too, and are protesting the constant banning of sites by voluntarily banning their own.

So how are Turkish bloggers protesting these periodic bans on the internet? By putting the following up on their website: Bu siteye erişim kendi kararıyla engellenmiştir which translates roughly into “This site is blocked by [the author's] own choice”. blocked site
This protest is to last until Wednesday August 20th. And of course, this isn't an issue that many are writing about, just participating. The anafikir blog [tr] has a separate page where you can find the code to convert your website to the “blocked” page and a running list of sites that are participating. Several Turkish media sites are covering the protests and providing links to forum groups and Facebook sites. Techcrunch gives a history of the block as they have observed it:

The problem has gotten so bad that Turkish blogs are now banning themselves in protest. The fake bans started with Firat Yildiz, who put this message up on his blog[…]Then another Turkish blogger, Selim Yoruk, created this page with a piece of code that lets any blogger easily add the same message to his homepage. Nearly 200 Turkish blogs have (temporarily) shut themselves down in this manner. The point is to show Turkish Web surfers what the Internet would look like if the censorship continues unabated.

Turkish blog Metroblogging:Istanbul is supporting the ban by advertising it and encouraging dialog:

After the ban of many a video streaming websites by the Turkish government, bloggers decided to take the matter into their own hands by protesting the Chinese style censorship going on. We were getting used to the void left by YouTube when suddenly, Dailymotion, another video streaming website got banned also. […] Show us your support by leaving a comment and having a whinge with us about the whole situation :)

It is too early to predict if the protest will have any effect, however, expat blogger located in Turkey, SortiPreneur had the following to say about the situation:

The sites being shut down is a problem, and I am glad there's a voice being raised in protest. However, I think the Turkish internet community needs to address the issue with more mature moves in parallel.

The sites are shut down not as censorship, but as a result of court decisions. This is not dissimilar to Napster being shut down in the U.S. And, contrary to some of the commentary on blogs, not all bans have to do with insults to Ataturk (although a few of the bans are for those insults, due to the fact that it's illegal to insult Ataturk in Turkey) , but are a result of civil libel suits by private individuals. In other words, the site bans are in accordance with the legal system here. BTW, I am not saying I agree with any of the particular laws, but I don't categorically have a problem with a system where laws are being enforced.

The primary problem I see is the lack of understanding Turkish courts have about the internet, and especially about user-generated content. It seems to be that there needs to be specialized courts designated as venues for online content related prosecution.

Having commented on the problem, let me point out the role (or lack thereof) of Turkish NGOs that have the responsibility to lobby on behalf of the internet industry.

Is this the way to concretely address censorship in Turkey? Or are there other possibilities as SortiPreneur suggests? We invite you to weigh on this protest.

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