Turkey Unblocks YouTube, but Will Ban Be Short-Lived?

This post was originally written for the OpenNet Initiative blog

In 2007, Turkey blocked video-sharing site YouTube for the first time, joining a list of 12 or so other countries to have done so at some point, including Armenia, Syria, Morocco,and Tunisia. The site then became available intermittently throughout much of 2007, only to be fully blocked again in 2008, a block that would continue until earlier this week, when it was reported that the Turkish government had finally reversed the ban.

The decision to block YouTube stemmed from complaints about videos on the site ridiculing founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Insulting Ataturk, or even “Turkishness,” is considered a crime. Though YouTube was initially asked to remove the offending videos, they refused, and the site was subsequently blocked.

Over the course of the past two years, there has been an increase in protesting of Turkey's Internet filtering, beginning online and more recently, taking to the streets. Now, Turkish netizens are reveling in their increased access.

Cyberscholar Dr. Yaman Akdeniz warns that the excitement may be short-lived:

Despite the earlier news that Turkey has lifted its ban on YouTube after almost 2.5 years, YouTube reinstated the four videos that were removed by a licensing agency in Germany. YouTube, in a statement circulated in Turkish late Monday night stated that the four videos did not violate its copyright violation policy and therefore they were put back into the system…

…It remains to be seen how the Turkish authorities will react to this action by YouTube but I strongly suspect that they will issue a new injunction to block access to YouTube.

The OpenNet Initiative's most recent research on Turkey can be found here.

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