To people and public,
As the digital version of the oppressive and conservative political line that brougt the shutdown of Hagia Sophia Museum (the most important museum of Turkey), the encroachment of Istanbul Convention (the assurance of women), and most significantly the constraint of faschism by AKP government; a new law draft called “Social Media Law Draft” in colloquial speech which is aimed to alter the Internet Law of Turkey No. 5651 a.k.a “the murderer of Internet Freedom”, has been come to parliment.
The Law No. 5651 “On Regulation Of Publicatıons On The Internet and Combating Crimes Committed By Means Of Such Publication (“The Internet Law”), is a freedom opressing, censorship adherant, meddlesome legislation and harmful than helpful. Due to this law and tendencies in applications, thousands of websites are censored at the moment. It is unknown, which crimes or perpetrators had been brought to justice by this law besides all the surveillance and censorship it caused. Because of this law, the people living in this country were not only blocked to access Wikipedia for 990 days, but also the investigations around the offenses that occured via Internet and effecting individuals get absolutely no benefit from it.
Now, via the addition of the suppressive powers of this law, the right to access information of Turkish citizens, that is already not fair, is attemped tobe axed fully in favour of government control. Some of the new restrictions by the draft are:
- The platforms that have more than 1 million visitors are required to appoint a representative in Turkey. If the platforms would not comply, they will face heavy fines and their bandwith will be narrowed firstly in 50% and then 90%.
- Uncompliance to content removal requrests, the platform may be fined from 1 million TRY to 10 million TRY.
- The social media platforms will have to keep Turkish user’s data in Turkey. The same conditions will also apply for instant messaging platforms.
- BTK (The IT Institution of Turkey) may irrupt the offices of the related services accompanied by police or gendermerie “when it considered necessary”.
- This law will grant broad and open-ended powers that will lead to more surveillance and censorship than already there is.
Mass surveillance and censorship
It’s obvious that there is no expectations but control and censorship from the new regulation. To notice that, it’s not necessary to look further than China, an example two steps away. China wants to keep citizens’ data in the country in order to obtain them unquestioningly whenever state seems fit. Nowadays when journalism is considered as a crime, terrestrial broadcasting has been sacrificed to the “pool media” (slang for government aimed media); the social media is vital. This communication tools which we use everyday to access real news that have never got a chance to find a place in government controlled media, to mold a public opinion on a matter and to be organized is now nose to nose with the risk of surveillance and censorship.
Along with this regulation, the requirement of removal of the content, which is grudged by government, in 48 hours; means the establishment of a “Ministry of Truth” indeed. Via this way, turning social media into mainstream media-like condition is as easy as pie.
Net neutrality means; service providers and governments treat data on the Internet equally. This requirement prohibits making data flow more difficult or easy according to parameters such as publisher site and content does violate net neutrality. For example, it is considered violation of net neutrality if thegovernment restricts the traffic to a content that is not in their favor; in other words, makes the content load more slowly and therefore more difficult to access. The law constitutes the legal basis for violating net neutrality if social media platforms do not accept censorship and surveillance mechanisms. In order to ensure freedom of expression on the Internet, net neutrality is essential. The new regulation implies irreversible violation of the net neutrality, which is already lacking in our country.
We do not recognize this regulation, which paves the way for state surveillance and censorship and aims to take away our freedom of expression. We call everyone to support the struggle against this draft for a free İnternet. Internet is life!
“Kahrolsun istibdat, yaşasın hürriyet!” 1
Özgür Yazılım Derneği (Free Software Association in Turkey)
This phrase was the motto in Medieval Turkish against the “İstibdat” (Despotism) era in the Ottoman Empire, which was institutionalized by Abdülhamit II in 1877 and had continued until 1908. In İstibdat era, the media was oppressed and censored by government and the consitution was abolished. The mistranslation may be “Down with despotism, long live freedom” ↩︎