Network site myspace.com has been closed down in Turkey. It’s not totally clear yet why, but it’s said it has to do with copyright laws being infringed. On myspace, a lot of music is shared among members, and it’s of course feasible that in the process copyrights are not always respected. Which is illegal, but hardly a reason to close down a site, I’d say. The situation looks a lot like that with youtube, which has been closed now for almost one and a half years: at a few specific places, a law is broken, but it’s not access to that specific URL that is blocked, but to the whole site.
Now several people have asked me if the Turkish authorities are behind the myspace ban: are they misusing copyright laws to restrict network sites? And is myspace a victim of such policies because a lot of alternative music is shared there that might be ‘subversive’? Interesting thought, but no, I don’t think so. Turkey is not a dictatorship, and actually it has an extremely varied ‘subversive’ scene, in the sense of groups and people ‘undermining the authorities’. A big leftist movement, including old fashioned communists, a big and lively alternative music scene, student groups for every range of thought you can think of. Yes, they get into trouble sometimes, for example in clashes on universities (read this article on that I wrote last year). And some time ago a guy who was distributing a leftist magazine was arrested and didn’t survive it (read about it in this article). Horrible, and every time something like that happens, it’s one time too much, but there is no planned campaign from the authorities to shut down ‘subversive’ groups and close down social networks where people meet.
Nor is it, by the way, the authorities that take the initiative to close down a site. In the case of youtube, it was an organisation for the protection of Atatürk’s legacy that asked the judge to close the site down. And in the case of myspace, it seems that an organisation that defends copyrights asked for the closure. The procedure is probably not much more complicated than this: if anything illegal happens on a site, you can ask for it to be closed down, and if it is indeed illegal, then the closure request is granted.
The problem is that in Turkey too many things are still seen as illegal, and, consequently, as a reason to close down a site. Of course, youtube and myspace are not the only ones that are closed – actually, hundreds of sites are inaccessible. Sometimes it’s sites for illegal activities like online gambling or (child) porn, but in many cases it’s because a site breaks a law that restricts the freedom of expression. Like the law against insulting Atatürk and his legacy: Atatürk’s legacy can’t even be discussed, and in youtube’s case it was actually a video on which Atatürk wore lipstick and eye shadow and ‘acted gay’ that was enough to close down the whole site. Many sites are also closed because they ‘promote terrorism’, which for example could mean that a site refers to PKK leader Öcalan as ‘Mister Öcalan’ – calling him ‘Mister’ is considered respectful and thus illegal.
So, yes, internet laws are a problem – anybody can ask for the closing down of a site, and the telecom authorities won’t close down specific URLs but whole sites to block illegal content. But the real problem is that too many things in this country are still illegal, whereas they should be protected by the freedom of expression. But mind you, I’m not talking about copyright violations now – you don’t expect that from somebody earning her money from writing, do you ;-)? But even as a copyright defender, I’d say you could easily tackle that without closing a whole site.