Thursday, June 10, 2010

Announcement to my Friends....

Because the Turkish government seems intent on limiting its citizen's access to the outside world by banning Internet sites, I have decided to take a break from writing the blog. At the moment, I can see none of the pictures that I have previously uploaded and none of the embedded videos from YouTube can play. Under these conditions, it is very difficult for me to see how I can continue.

After nearly three years of ridiculously loyal blogging, I am saddened all this heavy-handed interference by politicians who have no idea about the "internets."

I'd like to thank my followers and my visitors. Perhaps this intolerable situation will change in the future and I will be able to produce the kind of blog I want. I especially wanted to thank Stranger in Istanbul and Ayak in Mugla.. good friends and wonderful blog writers. (You can find their links in the side bar.)

Bye bye and thanks again, everybody.

22 comments:

  1. Well I'm extremely sad to hear this. And I'm angry too. I know we don't have quite the freedom of speech in this country that we'd like but this is all getting out of hand now.

    And incidentally I can no longer connect straight to my blog...I have to try 2 or 3 times...and occasionally having to enter my password again. This hasn't happened before.

    I'm going to carry on, but I can understand how you feel because a lot of your posts contain pics and videos, and it must be difficult to have this stuff restricted or removed.

    You have my email address I think? Please keep in touch xxx

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  2. Too bad.
    Looks like those morons in Ankara wants google first to pay 32 million of taxes before thinking of putting YouTube online again...
    Anyway, your will be on our blogroll for the next year.)
    All the best!

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  3. @International
    I believe that's what they call, in 1940's film noir language, as a "shake-down." I thought this was all about insulting Turkish pride but now I see it is all about making people pay to insult Turkish pride. After all, nothing has changed about posting videos insulting Ataturk by 14 year old Greek children. But it will be okay if Google pays enough money?

    However, Internet Technologies Association have challenged the Turkish Government in the European Court of Human Rights. They are citing Article 10 which is quoted below.

    Article 10 provides the right to freedom of expression, subject to certain restrictions that are "in accordance with law" and "necessary in a democratic society". This right includes the freedom to hold opinions, and to receive and impart information and ideas.

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  4. >>Looks like those morons in Ankara..
    A quick question to IN: These morons only in Ankara? I really DISLIKE his inappropriate writing style! I am sure many (turkish) citizens in this country don't like his way.

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  5. I could delete it, Nihal, but censoring it would be doing exactly what I am complaining about! :) So, although I may or may not approve of his choice of words, I will let it stand. I hope you can understand.
    Would you be as upset if you knew it was a Turkish person saying it? (That's a serious respectful question, by the way.)

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  6. Bulent MurtezaogluJune 12, 2010 at 9:21 PM

    Nomad, do you think it is legal for a Turkish person to say it? Not that I know any Turk who'd say any such disrespectful thing, of course not, but these people are pretty tightly protected by laws and they are not above bringing criminal charges or pursuing civil action.

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  7. Bulent MurtezaogluJune 12, 2010 at 10:06 PM

    Nomad, you might want to look at the full text of article 10. I'll quote from here:

    ---------------------
    ARTICLE 10

    1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. this right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
    2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
    ---------------------------

    If I were the Turkish government, I'd go for the sentence about licensure. Unlike the first amendment + the SCOTUS decisions for the past decades the European Convention on Human Rights is a very weak document for freedom of expression.

    The way I visualize this is some bureaucrat going "OH OH but what about OUR rights" during some meeting, and getting that sentence about licensure in the first part instead of the usual second part where they list restrictions. Anyway, the relevant internet law here (2007) requires something akin to licencing and identity disclosure for publishers and those who facilitate publishing (eg hosting companies). We're finding out how they might enforce it too.

    In any event, and in reference to that movie you linked in that other entry let me say that freedom of expression doesn't simply come into existence just because some official document states so and some court concludes so. There are a lot of mechanisms of control already explicitly sanctioned in the European document.

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  8. @Bulent
    As usual you are a wealth of information. I believe I understood everything you said, except for the last two sentences. I am not sure what you mean. As a signee in 1949, Turkey recognized the principle of the rule of law and desired to guarantee democracy and basic human rights and freedoms.(At least, in theory.) "The aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress." Agreeing to the conventions drafted by the Council of Europe merely implies a shared value with other nations of Europe.

    Certainly the European Convention for Human Rights as a legal document is artfully deceptive piece of legislation. It seems initially to be making bold statements and noble declarations and then it adds its own loopholes. Your example is a case in point. Declaring that citizens have a human right to freedom of expression AND "to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers." Yet on the very next line, giving states the right to control methods of broadcasting through granting or withholding licensing to broadcasters. Notably, Internet is not specifically mentioned, though television and cinema are. Is the Internet broadcasting? I ask because the FCC in the US has, for some reason, declared that cable television cannot be licensed because it is not broadcasting. (This led to the unrestricted growth of the Murdoch empire.
    The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988 defines a broadcast as "a transmission by wireless telegraphy of visual images, sounds, or other information which is capable of lawful reception by the public or which is made for presentation to the public". Thus, it covers radio, television, teletext and telephones. Again, internet is not mentioned as a form of broadcasting, though it might be implied.

    Also, how does the internet law in Turkey compare with the internet laws in other countries in Europe, especially in terms of licensing? Is the Turkish Internet law unusual in its requirements in comparison?

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  9. Bulent MurtezaogluJune 13, 2010 at 4:50 AM

    Nomad,

    I was trying to imply that the European/ECHR notion of freedom may not be satisfactory. Furthermore, people fuss about these things, and rightly so, but mostly what they fuss about isn't something principled but mainly the ham-fisted way the Turkish gov't seems to act. So both the higher authority and the democratic base might actually be effectively for onerous restrictions.

    The former point should be obvious from the document itself and, say, the way the court ruled (or rather punted) for the headscarf thing. I shudder to think what'll happen if they were compelled to issue a ruling on the prophet cartoons and things like that.

    For the latter point I'll use an example. Knowing that you've been here a while, I'll quote Jefferson (1798, Kentucky res.) to you and ask if this would fly in 2010's Turkey:

    And that in addition to this general principle and express declaration, another and more special provision has been made by one of the amendments to the Constitution, which expressly declares, that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press": thereby guarding in the same sentence, and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press: insomuch, that whatever violated either, throws down the sanctuary which covers the others, arid that libels, falsehood, and defamation, equally with heresy and false religion, are withheld from the cognizance of federal tribunals. (emphasis mine)

    He probably didn't think of 'insults' of various kinds that are criminal matters here and also actionable in civil courts (he didn'tknow about Internet porn, obviously). My question is this: Do we look like the kind of society that'd want this kind of non-interefence and does our state look like the kind of state that'd relinquish these powers? My answer is no to both parts of the question. I don't mean this as a put-down for Turkey, this is just the way things are so other kinds of expectations need adjustment.

    [continued]

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  10. Bulent MurtezaogluJune 13, 2010 at 4:50 AM

    [last part]

    I don't know if the Internet is broadcasting in the legal sense. RTUK here wants it to be. I am no lawyer, but that's one avenue I'd pursue if I were defending Turkey on this. The upshot -- in this context -- of something like that actually working with the court would be horrible. This could empower the government to try to force many companies to open branch offices here and get taxed or face blocking. Since you cannot really block w/o explicit censorship infrastructure and end up breaking the 'net if you do it like the way they have been, the dystopic scenarios that can be generated from that are almost limitless.

    As far as comparisons with other laws. To answer, I would need to study not just the laws but what exactly the empowered regulatory agencies ask for. I am burdened by what I already do know and understand, I'd probably go bonkers if I understood more. Fortunately I've been out of the 'net scene for a while (professionally), and ham appily missing out on all this fun. If I were to summarize my opinion about it all I'd say the 'net was democratizing in the good sense for a bit, now the other kind of democracy has taken over and will, um, make love to it.

    Just judging by the kind of discourse out there (and in the EU circles) I wouldn't count on the net remaining the same around here. The obvious heavy-handed actions are not really the problem, the subtler ones are. You don't after all notice what's missing from the press for example, yet we do know a lot is. The problem is worse for the net because it is not simply the content that'll be missing, the business and the technical infrastructure can be warped insuch ways that entire classes of facilities don't happen. (Note how no real internet-like magic happens over the phone network even though physically they more or less are the same. You don't see kids running the next Google from their phones in their rooms, do you?)

    If you ask me, the way USENET became marginal is already a significant loss because it was non-centralized and more or less uncontrollable. I don't see anyone in (government or private) power too keen on leaving P2P alone either. We'll see, but I wouldn't remain hopeful. The best place for any meaningful struggle for a freer 'net is probably the US, not the EU and certainly not Turkey.

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  11. @Bulent
    Thanks so much for your intelligent remarks on this important issue. This problem of Internet restriction is not limited to Turkey, of course. (Of course, banning access of site for a whole nation as a result of one court complaint is a fairly outrageous act according to most people's definition. Akin to banning a newspaper because of one angry letter to the editor.) One thing that I think Turkish people should be aware of was that access and application of the Internet by the average Turkish person is much more advanced than many other countries in the world. In Greece for example, I was amazed at how so many of the benefits offered by the Internet, both in terms of personal and business development, had been neglected or at least, badly promoted.

    Net neutrality is bound to be the issue of the coming decades. In the US the challenge comes not so much from governments, but from media corporations with political agendas. They are presently in the process of WEB 2.0 in which ISPs, owned by one of the five remaining media corporations, will be able to dictate which sites can and cannot be "broadcast."


    I hate to think what the Net will look like in, say, ten or twenty years time without some clear and decisive international laws.

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  12. Bulent MurtezaogluJune 13, 2010 at 5:18 PM

    Nomad, you are probably aware of him and perhaps others exist now, but let me just just say Larry Lessig is doing a lot to expose these issues to non-techies. I'll give you link to his site: http://www.lessig.org/

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  13. Nomad, do you think it is legal for a Turkish person to say it? Not that I know any Turk who'd say any such disrespectful thing, of course not, but these people are pretty tightly protected by laws and they are not above bringing criminal charges or pursuing civil action.
    ________==____________________==_____________
    @Bulent
    Sorry, I just saw your earlier comment about the IM comment. (I wasn't censoring you, merely my incompetence. apologies.) Actually I didn't ask about legality but whether you'd find it as offensive. Many offensive things are not illegal and many legal things may be, to some people, offensive. I don't personally approve of name-calling. And not because I have gushing respect for the politicians (anywhere) but merely because it doesn't really add anything to the discussion.
    In fact, after a little research, I find that Turkey is by no means the only country demanding some explanation to Google tax avoidance strategy. France, England and Australia have all objected to the practices. Google on the other hand claims they are abiding by the respective laws. And Turkey has a better case than many countries because, although Google doesn't have a headquarters located in Turkey, it does have a physical site. That site is called Google Reklamcilik ve Pazarlama Limited Sirketi. As this is a Turkish business, the government's objection do have some degree of merit and should not be dismissed out of hand. Had Google formed a "liaison" company in Turkey, Google might have a better case. (I was going to write a post about it but this will suffice.)
    There is one important difference between Turkey's objections and other nations' and that is in approach, which I am afraid does no credit to Turkey as a nation. Also, there is the question of the initial reasoning behind the ban on Youtube and whether, despite the tax issue, this will remain.

    Thanks for you comments, as always.

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  14. Bulent MurtezaogluJune 15, 2010 at 3:26 PM

    No worries, I'd forgotten about it. No it wasn't offensive to me, I have choice words for many of those people too.

    I was clowning around with your question about if it'd be offensive if a Turkish person said it. It isn't clear that Turkish people can legally say such things about the you-know-whos. This isn't just a theoretical risk, and even I got exposed once. Someone (probably a civil servant) once bullied me in a heavier-traffic techie place on-line for far milder language (though it was more 'insulting' than 'moron') by saying 'sayin bakanimiza hakaret ha?' As far as I am concerned, we show 'respect' to these people because they have the means to make us. This only works in 'print' of course. You probably know as well as I do how candid we tend to be about our opinions of them when talking/venting among ourselves.

    The tax thing with the 'net seems like a new twist on the question of the multinationals' tendencies for tax arbitrage. They tend to arrange their cost structure so they (legally) recognize their taxable income wherever it is advantageous or convenient for them. The governments who lose out complain and fight this. So yes, this kind of thing isn't limited to Turkey.

    This is somewhat like what we do over the 'net, perhaps. We want to stay where we are physically for whatever reason but be virtually present in a place where our speech isn't interfered with. Governments don't like this. (Same with trade, or even book-selling, eg: Amazon got in trouble with France because it was enabling the French to buy gooks that the French government didn't want sold.)

    There may be other reasons for wanting an office here, though. The government cannot force a company that's not present here to reveal stuff about its customers and those it provides free services to. There's nobody to arrest for contempt of court or for what's deemed illegal/non-compliant behaviour if the company is abroad. They also cannot fine an entity and hurt them if they cannot collect the fine.

    Don't quote me on this but I am reasonably sure that the young Turks would print their subversive material abroad and mail it in using the postal service run by foreigners and protected by what's called capitulations (concessions to foreign companies that put them outside the jurisdiction of regular Ottoman courts). Even if this was so, individual bureaucrats or ministers probably don't know it, but the state here seems to have an institutional memory that lives in its reflexes. It intensely dislikes flows of goods and info that it cannot easily interfere with or monitor. Probably the same as many other states, but, as you point out, its reactions and attempts to assert its authority tend to be a bit more naked.

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  15. Very interesting analysis. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  16. Bulent MurtezaogluJune 15, 2010 at 8:33 PM

    You're welcome. I can go on (and perhaps ought to) to complete the last point. It should be obvious from what the minister says to the press that he's is attempting to hit all bases. He even resorts to transparent attempts to implicate those of us who oppose this kind of heavy-handed gov't interference on civil-libertarian grounds. He does this by somehow insinuating that we are in service of Google (the company as a money-making entity). That the entire discourse is disingenuous is immaterial for the point I'm trying to make now, though. The main implication that resonates with many people is the assertion of some kind of raison d'etat for the action taken. This has a deep meaning and appeal here that it -- AFAIR -- doesn't in the US.

    The understanding I am alluding to is pervasive not just in civil service and the political classes but is, in some ways, shared by the populace. I'll give you an example. This present bunch in power was very much on the side of Merve Kavakci when she attempted to take her oath in the parliament with her headscarf. Ecevit, who opposed it, delivered a famous 45sec-long speech on this. Here it is. It should be obvious that he's stressing the state and how a mere MP cannot challenge it. Many of the other MPs are cheering this observation. We now find out that even those who did not cheer him at that time very much share his view of the state and they are attempting to appeal to that understanding among the people. I submit that they do so not out of hypocrisy, or political expediency but because they share the fundamental approach.

    One could get somewhat superficial (or deep?) and try to name this kind of regard for the state in some well-known Western terms and even ones that many revile. That is not my intent. For the sake of completeness I just wanted to point out that while people here do tend to badmouth individual governments, ministers etc. and be generally unruly, the state itself -- both as an abstraction and as it has existed here -- has a somewhat special status in their minds. That, as far as I can see, is a fundamental difference between here and the US.

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  17. Wow, I fall a little behind in the blogroll and look what happens. I'm terribly sorry to see you go, Nomad, and I sincerely hope you really don't wait until the gov't sorts this business out before you take up posting again. I look forward to reading you, and hope I can do so before my vision fails and I'm dribbling in a home somewhere.

    This is fantastically informative and interesting discussion that I intend to re-read a few times.

    I always start wondering if every issue in every country is as fraught and nuanced as every issue in Turkey. It probably is, but it blows my mind to think about all the nuance and subtext, in the same way as contemplating each life in every apartment building around me does, or when I start considering the infinite bigness and smallness of things.

    Take care and be well.

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  18. @Stranger..
    Well, it doesn't look like you need worry your pretty little head about my departure. Bulent's insights and Blogger's new template designer sort of seduced back to the blog. Also I managed to find a way to see my posted photos again. I can live without the videos but not the uploaded photos. It seems to have something to do with which server I am use or used when I uploaded them initially.
    apparently all day today, somebody was at the controls again. One minute, using GoogleDNS my photos were gone, going back to the TTNet server and they are there. So I am using that again. It is all so aggravating.
    Anyway, every Sunday, there will be a new "old" music video, even though all my friends in Turkey won't be able to watch without some tunneling.

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  19. Bulent MurtezaogluJune 16, 2010 at 9:51 PM

    Stranger, it looks more complicated than it is, I think. In this case there are several factors that make it look worse and they wouldn't be applicable to your neighbors' lives. Here's a short list:

    -- People (even some of those duly credentialed by our gov't as academic experts) do not really understand how the Internet works. (I know this to be so, as of 5-10 years ago. Since the same bunch is still masquerading as experts and they don't seem to be continuing education types, it is a fairly safe assumption for now, also.) These people influence policy and they also influence or serve in regulatory agencies. They also issue statements. There isn't much we can do to fix this in the short run -- we'll just have to wait for the new generation to rise through the ranks. What we can do is to keep this possible flaw in mind as we attempt to gauge things that are said or done.

    -- There's immense confusion on the end-user level. Even in terminology. See the above exchange, for an example. Nomad and I apparently meant different things when we said 'proxy' so I ended up in a position of having questioned what he actually did experience. Even though I know what I am talking about in the technical sense, I failed to convey what I meant because -- in talking to Nomad -- what I thought was the correct terminology actually was the incorrect one use to convey the info I was trying to convey. I should perhaps have said 'automatic invisible tunnel' or somesuch. This happened between one well-meaning person and another well-meaning person who have interacted before. Usually the way such communication happens is from a bunch of marketing/PR people to crowds of others who have reason to doubt them. You can guess how bad it can get.

    -- The press fails the people. One side misses no opportunity to blather on about Ataturk and ADD being bad, the other side does the same about Islam/Islamists or whatever. Nobody's really out to truly inform people. In certain ways the well-meaning folks who sue Turkey in ECHR are no different. Why not quote the blessed thing in its entirety if you wish to show people what kind of world we're living in, what documents get produced, what task you're undertaking and with what kind of odds? The court surely knows what the document says, as do the lawyers -- why not the public?

    -- The understanding of 'freedom' and especially 'freedom of expression' is different in the US (and perhaps the English-speaking world) than it is in Turkey. The values attributed to them are also different. This difference might be problematic by itself even if it were sufficiently exposed, but it isn't -- it is obscured. The same words are used and people -- unwittingly -- act as though they have much common ground and a clear communication channel when in fact neither is true. What makes it worse is that our people are outright lied to by an intellectual class that claims to want US-style freedoms while simultaneously lying about them. Did you know, for example, that where was a universal legally enforced rule in the West that banned insulting holy things? I didn't either -- till I learned it from a well-regarded Turkish 'liberal' writing a column in our glorious press about freedom of the press and freedom of expression. This was a few days ago and it isn't atypical. Far from it, it is done in a sustained manner. The efforts to spread convenient falsehoods about the US in particular is so intense that they once almost misled the owner of the Kamilpasha blog about the way things work in her own country. See here.

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  20. Bulent MurtezaogluJune 24, 2010 at 2:03 PM

    OK, note how the minister is now using the 'right' rhetoric to involve and exploit the Turkish notion of 'state': 'Youtube Türkiye Cumhuriyeti ile mücadeleye girişti'. One thing this rhetoric tries to accomplish is puting people who oppose the minister's and his bureaucrats' approach into a position where they are not just against the their particular approach but against the state itself. Note also how he says Google tried to get Turkey to 'kneel' ('dize getirmek'). A few more steps, and 'treason' talk might also surface in some form.

    Again, this is neither new nor does it indicate any kind of worsening of the climate here. What was already and always there in some form is manifesting itself within this context. The improvement is that a few decades ago, I wouldn't have dreamed of writing this, using the 'net and while living in Turkey. Now, not only can I write it w/o fear and at the convenience of my home-office, I could also have written this in Turkish and find considerable numbers to not only get it but also agree with me. (I am not saying 'majority' though. If it were so, we probably wouldn't be having this conversation.)

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  21. Bulent MurtezaogluJune 25, 2010 at 12:05 PM

    OK more info. Zaman says Google and Youtube are asked to get a licence here and fulfill the requirements of that licence. Here's the relevant regulation: http://faaliyet.tib.gov.tr/yetbel/yonetmelik1.html

    Article 15 in that document lists the content control, access/user data retention and traffic monitoring requirements. You cannot really understand this w/o looking at other regulations and what the licencees have been told/asked through other channels but it is pretty much inline with what that 2007 law implied.

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  22. Bulent MurtezaogluJune 26, 2010 at 8:14 PM

    Even more. Kivanc is seeing the I saw (as in 'hain'): Hain internet ve Türk sağının kaymayan ekseni.

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