Turks infuriated over ban on Google sites (SETimes.com)

Turks infuriated over ban on Google sites (SETimes.com)

Turkish activists have initiated a legal challenge against the government’s controversial move to block Google services.

By A Simsek for Southeast European Times — 15/06/10


Professor Yaman Akdeniz. [Photo by A.Simsek/SETimes]

A move by the Turkish government to block Google services has left millions of internet users frustrated and put the country’s internet legislation under scrutiny.

As part of an ongoing ban on YouTube, the government earlier this month imposed a blanket restriction on the IP addresses the video-sharing site uses. YouTube, however, is owned by Google Inc., and the search giant uses various dynamic IPs.

As a result, a number of different services — including Google Analytics, Docs, Translate and Books — are now blocked in Turkey.

Internet users and activists there are infuriated. An ongoing campaign against internet censorship drew thousands of supporters, including representatives of NGOs and internet sites.

Two cyber rights activists, Associate Professor Yaman Akdeniz, a member of the Bilgi University Faculty of Law, and Assistant Professor Kerem Altiparmak, a member of the Ankara University Faculty of Political Science, have asked the European Court of Human Rights to revoke the controversial ban.

‘This blanket IP ban and restrictions on accessing Google services is a violation of basic freedoms — freedom of communication and the right to information — which are also guaranteed in the Turkish Constitution,’ Akdeniz told SETimes. The YouTube ban dates back to 2008, when an Ankara court ruled that various videos posted on the site are an insult to Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

At that time, only three IP numbers were associated with YouTube and only these were blocked. Although the ten insulting videos are inaccessible from Turkey, a total blockage of YouTube continues.

‘The difficulties in accessing some Google services in Turkey appears to be linked to the ongoing ban on You Tube. We are working to get our services back up as soon as possible,’ Google spokesman Jordan Newman told SETimes.

Under heavy criticism, the government blamed Google Inc. for changing its configurations, mixing YouTube’s IP numbers with Google sites.

The government is also demanding that the internet giant register in Turkey, operate under Turkish law and pay taxes within the country. The finance ministry seeks taxes to the tune of 15.1m euros.

‘Google should obey the rules of Turkey,’ Transport and Communications Minister Binali Yildirim said last week. ‘We are making big steps towards transforming Turkey into an information society. We have no intention at all of blocking the internet,’ he said.

With around 18 million internet users, Google sites ranked as the largest property in Turkey, with more than 16 million visitors in April 2009 — 90% of the country’s online population.

‘Google is a vital source of information,’ Akdeniz said. ‘Google services have a major public benefit. The current issue cannot be reduced to a problem with a company,’ he said.

‘The current internet restrictions in Turkey absolutely violate basic freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution and international conventions. The current practice of restrictions is unacceptable, both legally and politically,’ Altiparmak told SETimes.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com

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