IGF Boycott Statement
18 August, 2014
The objective of each annual IGF programme is to maximize the opportunity for open and inclusive dialogue and the exchange of idea; to build capacities amongst all stakeholders and benefit from the multi-stakeholder perspective of the IGF. The 2003 WSIS Geneva Declaration on Principles reaffirms “as an essential foundation of the Information Society, and as outlined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; that this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.
The Ninth Annual Internet Governance Forum (“IGF”) Meeting will be held in Istanbul, Turkey on 2-5 September 2014. Let us briefly explain why we decided to boycott IGF.
Between May 2007 and July 2014 Turkey blocked access to approximately 48.000 websites subject to its controversial Internet Law No 5651 which allows for blocking access to websites with the goal of protecting children from harmful content.
Although, the Law aimed to protect children from harmful content, from the very beginning it has been used to prevent adults’ access to information. In February 2014, amendments made to Law No 5651 extended blocking provisions to include URL-based blocking of Internet content which also allegedly include violation of personal rights or privacy infringements. The same amendments compelled all ISPs to be part of an Association for Access Providers to centrally enforce blocking orders within 4 hours of receipt and introduced one-to-two-year data retention requirements for hosting companies in addition to all ISPs. Furthermore, subject to new provisions, ISPs are required to take all necessary measures to block access to alternative access means such as proxy websites and other circumvention services including possibly VPN services. The amended version of the Law 5651 also shield the Telecommunications Communication Presidency (TIB) staff from prosecution if they commit crimes during the exercise of their duties within TIB.
Since the introduction of the controversial amendments access to both Twitter and YouTube has been blocked in March 2014 arbitrarily and unlawfully by the Telecommunications Communication Presidency as confirmed by the recent decisions of the Turkish Constitutional Court. With both blocking orders the government aimed to prevent the circulation of graft allegations of 17 December 2013 before the local elections to be held on 30 March 2014. During the blocking period, the authorities also ordered major ISPs to hijack Google and OpenDNS’s DNS servers tampering with the DNS system to surveil communications as well as to prevent users to circumvent the blocking orders. The Constitutional Court stated that the blocking of Twitter by TIB constituted a grave intervention on the freedom of expression of all Twitter users. Furthermore, the Constitutional Court in a 14-2 majority judgment decided that the YouTube ban was unconstitutional and infringed on the applicants freedom of expression protected by the Constitution.
However, despite these strong decisions Twitter decided to implement its Country Withheld Content Policy for Turkey and started to block access to certain Turkish Twitter accounts as well as individual tweets. It was reported in June 2014 that Twitter complied with 44 out of 51 court decisions since they visited Ankara on 14 April 2014 and the US based social media platform continues to aid and assist Turkish authorities to censor political content from Turkey.
Facebook also banned pages of a number of alternative news sources on its social media platform, including Yüksekova Haber (Yuksekova News), Ötekilerin Postası (The Others’ Post), Yeni Özgür Politika (New Free Policy), Kürdi Müzik (Kurdish Music), and other related groups on Kurdish movements during 2013 and has been critized for removing several pages related to the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). Regardless of the above mentioned Constitutional Court decisions, currently, access to popular platforms such as Scribd, Last.fm, Metacafe, and Soundcloud is blocked from Turkey. Access to Wordpress, DailyMotion, Vimeo and Google+ has ben blocked temporarily by court or administrative orders during the last year. A number of alternative news websites that report news on Kurdish issues remain indefinitely blocked from Turkey including Firat News, Azadiya Welat, Dengemed and Keditor. In total it is estimated that 200 websites are banned indefinitely for their pro-Kurdish or left wing publications. The practice of banning the future publication of entire websites goes beyond “any notion of ‘necessary’ restraint in a democratic society and, instead, amounts to censorship”.
Over the past year, many users received suspended sentences and fines for their social media activity, usually on charges related to terrorism, blasphemy, or criticism of the state and its officials. In September 2013, during a retrial at the 19th Istanbul Criminal Court of Peace, pianist and composer Fazil Say was given a suspended sentence of 10 months and court supervision for insulting religious values in a series of tweets.
Subsequent to Gezi Park protests of June 2013 dozens of people were detained for their social media posts in the ensuing crackdown. Criminal investigations and prosecutions were initiated subject to Articles 214 and 217 of the Turkish Criminal Code concerning incitement to commit a crime and disobey the law as well as with regards to miscellaneous provisions of Law No 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations. However, such criminal investigations and prosecutions “do a disservice to democracy and often even endanger it” creating a chilling effect on all social media platform users. On the contrary, “the dominant position which the Government occupies makes it necessary for it to display restraint in resorting to criminal proceedings, particularly where other means are available for replying to the unjustified attacks and criticisms of its adversaries or the media”. No such restraing has been displayed by the government authorities since Gezi.
In addition to widespread blocking of websites and content as well as criminal investigations and prosecutions to silence political speech, the Turkish authorities are also building surveillance infrastructure including the deployment of deep packet inspection systems to monitor all forms of communications unlawfully.
Therefore, we decided to boycott IGF 2014 hosted by Ministry of Transport, Maritime and Communications and coordinated by the Information and Technologies Authority. We also confirm that we will not be taking part in the IGF.
Yaman Akdeniz & Kerem Altiparmak
In April, the UK High Court ruled that several of the country’s leading ISPs must censor The Pirate Bay since the site and its users breach copyright on a grand scale.
In the weeks that followed Virgin Media, BT, Everything Everywhere, Sky Broadband, TalkTalk, BE and O2 all blocked access to the world’s largest BitTorrent site. Several of the site’s IP-addresses and domain names were made inaccessible.
In a response The Pirate Bay decided to add some new IP-addresses, effectively bypassing the blockades. This worked, until this week when several ISPs updated their blocklists to include the new addresses.
In the UK the procedure to add new domains and IP-addresses is part of a ‘private agreement,’ which apparently allows the providers to quietly add new entries when it’s deemed necessary.
As of this week 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206 are no longer accessible on Sky Broadband, Virgin Media and TalkTalk and possibly other providers as well. The new addresses were added quietly by all ISPs without notifying the public.
Whether the updated filter will have any effect has yet to be seen. The Pirate Bay wouldn’t be The Pirate Bay if they hadn’t already lined up a new address, and indeed they have. During the weekend the BitTorrent site will add 220.127.116.11 (not live yet) to keep the whack-a-mole game going.
A Pirate Bay insider told TorrentFreak that they have enough new addresses to keep the providers busy for years to come. However, for them it’s more of a statement than anything else as there are already dozens of proxy sites that allow users to access The Pirate Bay just fine.
The most frequently visited proxy in the UK, operated by the local Pirate party, is already among the top 350 sites in the UK.
The above shows once again that while these blockades may stop some people from accessing a site, the really determined have plenty of options. Also, of those who simply give up on accessing The Pirate Bay, many will simply switch to other torrent sites.
Proof of the ineffectiveness of the censorship attempts was recently highlighted by several Dutch and UK Internet providers, who claimed that BitTorrent traffic didn’t decline after the blockades were implemented.
In other words, blocking The Pirate Bay is futile.
As we’ve concluded before, the entertainment industry might be better off pumping money into business models that give customers what they want, legally. The censorship route doesn’t seem to work out for now.
Government to consult on automatic porn censorship proposals: “The Government is to consult on proposals that would require internet service providers (ISPs) to offer to block customers’ access to pornographic material by default.”
(Via OUT-LAW News.)
As expected, the High Court has ordered British ISPs to block access to The Pirate Bay. Five ISPs – Virgin Media, TalkTalk, BSkyB, Everything Everywhere and Telefonica – are involved in this case, which was brought by nine record labels.…
(Via The Register – Public Sector.)
Digital Economy Act not in breach of EU laws, Court of Appeal rules: “A controversial law that forces internet service providers (ISPs) to help combat illegal file-sharing is lawful, the Court of Appeal has ruled.”
(Via OUT-LAW News.)
Courts cannot force social networks to broadly monitor for illegal file-sharing, ECJ rules: “National courts cannot force social networks to monitor for copyright infringement by users because it would not strike a ‘fair balance’ between the rights of rights holders and the rights of those platforms and its users, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled.”
(Via OUT-LAW News.)
High Court rules The Pirate Bay operators and users guilty of copyright infringement: “The operators of The Pirate Bay (TPB) website and its users are both guilty of infringing the copyright of rights holders in the music industry, the UK High Court has ruled.”
(Via OUT-LAW News.)
Courts cannot force ISPs into broad filtering and monitoring for copyright-infringing traffic, ECJ rules: “Court injunctions that force internet service providers (ISPs) to filter and monitor user traffic in order to prevent illegal file-sharing are contrary to EU law and fundamental rights, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has said.“
(Via OUT-LAW News.)
In May, the Copyright Information and Anti-Piracy Centre (CIAPC) and the Finnish branch of the music industry group IFPI announced that they had filed a lawsuit at the District Court in Helsinki.
The groups demanded that Finnish ISP Elisa should censor The Pirate Bay to protect the copyrights of their members. Elisa, however, refused to do so and described the blocking demands as ‘unreasonable’. But following a decision today from the Helsinki District Court they are left with no choice.
The court sided with the entertainment industry and ruled that Elisa should block access to The Pirate Bay before November 18, or face a 100,000 euro fine. Aside from various domain names, the court ruling also states that the ISP has to block access to the IP-addresses used by The Pirate Bay servers.
In a response to the ruling Elisa immediately announced that it will appeal the District Court’s decision. The ISP claims that among other things, the ruling is very unclear as it doesn’t state the specific domain names or IP-addresses that should be censored.
Elisa further says that the decision is practically irrelevant in the broader fight against online copyright infringement.
‘The industry should focus on measures that can truly reduce piracy in practice, such as making content available online at a reasonable price and without artificial delays,’ Elisa’s Henri Korpi said.
The Pirate Bay is currently listed as one of the 50 most-visited websites in Finland, and it is doubtful whether a blockade by Elisa will have much of an effect.
A Pirate Bay spokesperson told TorrentFreak there are many ways to circumvent such censorship attempts, and that the order may actually have the opposite effect to what was intended.
‘Blocks in other countries only boosted our traffic numbers, so we see this as free advertising,’ we were told.
Earlier this month Belgian ISPs Belgacom and Telenet were hit with a similar verdict, limited to blocking the Pirate Bay’s domain names. This blockade went into effect a few days ago but The Pirate Bay informs TorrentFreak that they haven’t seen a significant drop in traffic from Belgium.
In addition to Belgium, the popular BitTorrent site is currently censored in Ireland, Italy, Turkey and Denmark. An attempt to establish a similar blockade in The Netherlands failed last year because there was no evidence that the majority of an ISPs’ users are infringing copyright through The Pirate Bay.