Here is a quick roundup of about yesterday's protests about the proposed filtering system of the Internet. (For more about the ban and how it came about click HERE. )
ISTANBUL — Thousands of people in more than 30 cities around Turkey took to the streets on Sunday to protest a new system of filtering the Internet that opponents consider censorship.
The Information and Communications Technologies Authority, known by its Turkish initials as B.T.K., is going to require Internet service providers to offer consumers four choices for filtering the Internet that would limit access to many sites, beginning in August.
“These filters would turn the Internet into a state-controlled area,” said Serkan Dogan, 29, an Istanbul software programmer who said he was taking part in his first political demonstration. “You’d enter a channel leading you to the server of the state, which distributes the Internet to millions of users. The system enables the control of citizens…like telephone tapping.”
Protesters also have been upset by a BTK announcement that it will ban a list of words from use in domain names. According to press reports, those banned words would include things as common as “blonde” and “sister-in-law.”
Earlier this month, BTK head Tayfun Acarer told reporters that the accusations of censorship were baseless, as use of the four proposed state filters — children’s profile, family profile, domestic or standard profile — would be voluntary. However, Mr. Acarer gave few details of how the system would work.
The new filtering rules will be enforced beginning August 22, the government said.
A "Enemies of the Internet" report issued this month by Reporters Without Borders included Turkey on its 2011 list of "countries under surveillance."
The BTK was "not fooling anyone when it claims to be rendering a service to Internet users by giving them a choice between a lot of restrictions and fewer restrictions," the report said.
Turkey already blocks more than 7,000 websites, "in most cases without reference to any court," the report said.
Other Internet websites also include calls for their users to join the marches, including sansurekarsi.com, yasaklamakyasaktir. com, eksisozluk.com, sansuresansur.blogspot.com and others.
Protesters march simultaneously in 35 Turkish provinces, including Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Bursa, Antalya and Trabzon.
It's really stupendous when China comments on your Internet policies. Here's another related op-ed piece by Claire Berlinski, which explores the background of the protests.
I think to fully understand the passion behind this, you have to grasp the degree to which this culture polices itself by means of shame, family pressure, and neighborhood gossip. Everyone is in everyone's business, all the time. The authoritarianism of the state is only one component of a wider authoritarian culture; young people here have the sense, and it is quite justified, that everyone is telling them what to do--their families, especially. There's no way to escape the rigid social rules.
That's quite a blanket statement but, from what I've seen, it's not inaccurate. It seems that "all and all, we're just another brick in the wall" is the general feeling amongst the young people here. That's a pity, too, because the Turkish youth represent such an undiscovered vitality and an unused opportunity for the whole nation, I think.
It's also important to note that many of the newspapers and television new reports stress the asserted negative social effects of the Internet, such as, destroyed marriages and the rise of porn and general decadence of the Turkish society. (Perhaps it is because those are the two sectors most threatened by the Internet.)
People who may be deeply suspicious of this Internet thing, people whose index fingers have never once touched an "Enter" button, read such things and vote accordingly. (They are conservative in the old meaning of the word, before it was corrupted to mean just about anything.) I suspect there is a great deal of fear in some quarters and that has led to supporting these imposed restrictions on the Internet.
The same things they once said about television. Corrupting our youth! It will lead to a breakdown of society!
Of course, regulation of television broadcasting in Turkey is hardly a good model. Years ago, a single slipup, a crass remark by a guest or a poor judgment by a show producer, could get an entire station a one- or two-day ban. While that sort of heavy-handedness doesn't happen so much nowadays, the manner in which things are conducted now is really odd and, frankly, nonsensical. For example, even on cable television, showing smoking is banned (replaced by a blurred circle) but violence- including violence toward women- is freely shown. So if the policy toward Internet seems haphazard and arbitrary, it doesn't especially surprise me.
I'd agree for the most part with Berlinski's assessment but I'd also add that the concerns and the dissatisfaction and aspirations of Turkish young people are, by and large, ignored by the major parties. It is definitely an untapped voter demographic when you consider the average age here is much younger than, say, Europe.
I was struck the other day by an interview with Robert Fisk, writer and Middle East correspondent for The Independent. He was discussing the causes for the unrest of late that we have seen in the Arab nations. He noted that, in all of these countries, the leaders tended to treat their people like children and, without consent or consultation, they would arbitrary decide what was "good" for them. For that type of leadership, there was no need to waste time in deliberation or debate about the subjects. (America under George Bush had the same problem, by the way.) The "infantilization" of the nation gradually- but inevitably- became oppression as the nation, in effect, grew up. Perhaps, on a smaller scale, we are seeing the same thing here.
Turkey is growing up under the noses of its leaders. Isn't that remarkable? But then, remarkable things are always happening here, and that's what I really truly love about Turkey and the Turks.
The recent bans have not even had the fig leaf of a court decision, but have come in the form of notices (sometimes emailed) from the government’s Internet Office (TİB, İnternet Daire Başkanlığı) to the hosting companies, ordering them to close down the specified sites (or sites with certain words in their domain names, see my post below) and threatening unspecified punishment if they don’t comply. Is this even legal? Closing down an $18 million company without a court order, just by the flick of a pen or a pixel?
Also it appears that I spoke much too early about the bad old days of television censorship heavy-handedness. The attitude has been given a new life
TV and radio are also being hyper-regulated, with a recently passed broadcasting law giving the prime minister the authority to temporarily halt broadcasting. It bans “racy” images from the screen and gives the government’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) the right to define the professional and ethical rules that employees must follow…. The new law allows up to 50 percent of a company’s shares to be owned by a foreign company.
Racy images and too much darn kissing! ( http://goo.gl/aLBgS )
By the way, the comment section for the Kamil Pasha site is also interesting! Here's a short clip of the protest in Istanbul.