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Cablegate: Stifling Dialogue - Web Site Blocks Reach 1,187

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PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHIT #0562/01 3120711
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 070711Z NOV 08
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8582
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000562

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM AA OSCE TU
SUBJECT: STIFLING DIALOGUE - WEB SITE BLOCKS REACH 1,187

REF: A. A. ANKARA 603
B. B. ANKARA 306

1. Summary and Comment: Since November 2007, the Government
of Turkey (GOT) has blocked 1,187 Web sites and received
14,503 public complaints. Lawyers and technology reporters
argue that the contentious 2007 law regulating Internet
content establishes an outdated and unwieldy regulatory
framework that restricts freedom of expression and is in some
respects worse than the oppressive Internet censorship
techniques used by China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. The GOT's
paternalistic approach to Internet regulation discourages
dialogue between opposing positions, allowing disagreements
and long-held positions to fester under the rug of
censorship. An acknowledgement of the backwardness of the
Internet regulation and a reworking of the judicial and
regulatory approach to Internet regulation is necessary for
Turkey to demonstrate a commitment to EU accession. End
Summary.

Browsing the History of Turkish Internet Law
--------------------------------------------

2. In explaining the historical approach to Internet law in
Turkey, CNBC lawyer and Bianet writer Fikrit Ilkiz said that
in 1998 lawyers and active members from Turkey's Internet
community founded the Internet and Law Platform. According
to member Ilkiz, the Platform educates lawmakers and the
public about the Internet and lobbies for a positive legal
approach that embraces the freedom of expression rather than
a limitation of expression. The Platform also translated the
Cyber Crime Agreement accepted by the continental European
states into Turkish, he said; however, Turkey has yet to sign
it.

3. Ilkiz explained the GOT agreed in 2005 to create an
Internet law and proposed the addition of a single article to
the Press Law. The Platform protested the proposal,
countering that an inclusive law addressing the Internet's
broad definition and role was needed instead. Ilkiz said
that the Platform and members of an Internet commission in
the Justice Ministry worked for a year and a half to create
such a law. At the time, he noted, the process to create a
law that protected freedom of expression on the Internet was
very participatory and energetic.

4. In May 2007, according to Ilkiz the Ministry of
Transportation and Communication proposed an alternative 14
articles to restrict Internet freedoms stemming from media
attention on child pornography on the Web (Ref A). Ilkiz
described the Parliament's decision to accept the Ministry of
Transportation's proposal over the combined efforts of the
Platform and the Ministry of Justice as one dictated by fears
of public perception. A more democratic approach, he
contended, would have harnessed the positive aspects of the
Internet while limiting harmful content. Based on these 14
articles, the current Internet law allows for legal action
against the content provider if a Web site includes or
promotes any of the following:

- Child pornography
- Insulting Ataturk
- Suicide
- Illegal drugs
- Health hazards
- Obscenity
- Gambling

How to . . . Block a Web Site in Turkey
---------------------------------------

5. Ilkiz and Radikal technology columnist Serdar Kuzuloglu
explained that the law established a special
telecommunications board, the TIB, dedicated to monitoring
complaints related to Web site content. The TIB determines
whether or not a complaint is valid and can block a Web site
without a court procedure. However, they said, if a complaint
pertains to other charges, such as a violation of Article 301
or personal insult, the case goes to court and the content
provider's only means of unblocking the site is through a
court decision. Between November 1, 2007 and November 1,
2008, the TIB received 14,503 complaints and 1,187 Web sites
were blocked. Of that number, courts blocked 264 sites and
TIB blocked 923 without judicial proceedings. Forty seven
percent of TIB decisions pertained to child pornography,
while 56 percent of court decisions involved other
accusations, such as personal insults.

6. The most prominent and long term Web site closure

ISTANBUL 00000562 002 OF 002


occurred in May 2008, when an Istanbul court closed the
"YouTube" Web site to block a cartoon that lampooned Turkey's
founding father, Ataturk (Ref A). "YouTube" remains blocked
in Turkey and Ilkiz argued that instead of blocking the
entire Web site, the GOT should instead correct, punish, or
block the offending cartoon. "One should not close down an
entire library because one finds a single book offensive."
Kuzuloglu characterized such a broad block as a violation of
the freedom of expression for the multiple unoffending
authors on YouTube. "In this sense," he said, "I think we are
becoming like China." He suspected that the GOT will keep the
block in place until YouTube establishes a physical
representative in Turkey for legal accountability.

7. Kuzuloglu said that the current form of the law fails to
consider the international character of the Internet. The
law mandates that an individual take responsibility for
Internet content, requiring Web site proprietors to fill out
an ID card on the Turkish Telecommunication (TTA) Authority's
Web site. According to Kuzuloglu, the TTA can block any Web
site without an ID card on file indiscriminately, even if the
content provider is located outside Turkey. Instead of
controlling public exposure to contentious ideas, he
suggested the GOT instead use this as an opportunity to join
a developed world concerned about universal challenges like
child exploitation. The current approach, he argued, brings
society down to the lowest common denominator instead of
encouraging dialogue between opposing sides. "Banning is the
national reflex," according to Kuzuloglu, and the GOT should
allow the Turkish public to confront controversial issues.

Searching for Solutions
------------------------------

8. Ilkiz predicts that judicial system's "gross ignorance of
the technical aspects of the Internet" will force the GOT to
revisit this issue soon. Under the current law, he
explained, if a hacker added obscene material to a ministry's
Web site as the content provider the ministry would be held
responsible.

9. Ilkiz stressed the importance of an Internet-literate
court, and Kuzuloglu suggested the creation of a special
Internet court on which judges and prosecutors with Internet
training would sit. He pointed to a recent case in which
controversial antievolutionary author, Adnan Oktar,
successfully petitioned the Silivri Court to block the Web
site of major newspaper Vatan. Oktar's petition was based on
a reader's critical comments submitted in the online version
of the newspaper. Such an "ignorant" outcome would not be
possible in a special Internet court, Kuzuloglu argued.
WIENER

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