Anti-Censorship Group Criticizes Turkish Government Internet Policy

by Tracy Knauer •

Turkey’s policies on Internet censorship have come under fire from Access Now, an online privacy and freedom advocacy group.

Turkey has had a controversial history of Internet regulation in recent years. The country passed a law called the Internet Act in 2007, which was modified significantly by a new bill in 2014.

Authorities said the 2014 changes to the law were designed to increase freedom and privacy, as well as more effectively regulate “immoral” content online. According to the government, the modifications are intended to prevent online blackmail and defamation of personal character.

But critics contend that the current law instead clamps down on freedom even more than its 2007 predecessor because it gives the government power to ban online content that is unprecedented in Turkey.

Turkey also banned Twitter and Youtube in 2014, further fueling censorship concerns in the country.

Now, Access has set Internet censorship in Turkey in its crosshairs. On Nov. 1, the group sent an open letter to the Turkish government calling for authorities to “stop imposing access bans on websites of independent news organizations” and “to pledge not to order any further blocking that might lead to limitations on access to the Internet or specific online services.”

Access’s criticism of Internet regulation in Turkey centers on concerns that journalism critical of the government is being banned. But the group – which calls itself an “international human rights organization” focused on digital freedom – promoted a broader anti-censorship message by demanding that the Turkish government promise “to ensure that online communication networks remain free and open, to protect the right of people in Turkey to freely seek, receive, and impart information.”

A number of other organizations signed onto the Access Now letter, including Human Rights Watch, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Free Software Foundation.

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