Collateral damage

Of course, news-wise it is a technical story: several Google services, like ‘earth’, ‘analytics’ and ‘chrome’, are inaccessible in Turkey because of a technical game between Google and the Turkish telecom authorities. Let me tell you in short what happened. YouTube, owned by Google, is banned in Turkey (and some other countries), and Google changed certain settings to try to bypass that. Then Turkish authorities reacted by changing the way they block access to YouTube, resulting in what amounts to a ban on several Google services too. Collateral damage, you could say.

But of course, it’s not a technical matter. It’s a matter of censorship. Even though YouTube was blocked, there was an easy way around the ban by using ‘open DNS’, and YouTube was still the fifth most popular website in Turkey. The censors just couldn’t bear that and now have found a way to block the site more effectively.
The whole ban, more than two years old now, is totally ridiculous to start with: it is banned because there are videos on it ‘insulting Atatürk’. You can find them by searching for ‘Atatürk’ and words like gay or fag, and they are too childish and bad quality to even pay any attention to. Insulting Atatürk is forbidden by law, and this law is enforced strictly.

By enforcing this law, basic human rights are violated. Rights that are so closely related to building a democratic society, that in my opinion any attempt the AKP government says it makes to improve democracy is just lip service. For people to actively participate in a democratic society, they need access to information sources to inform themselves in any way they want to, and that includes unrestricted access to the internet.

Does the law against insulting Atatürk have to be changed for that? No, it doesn’t, and anyway that would be very complicated, and the current government would immediately be forbidden if they tried. Enforce the law less strictly? That might be an idea, but the procedure to block access to a site is also weird: if even one citizen files an official complaint against a site, it can be closed. All together, more than a thousand sites have been blocked in Turkey. You can also block only the access to the videos that are against the laws of your country, but telecom authorities say that’s impossible (whereas of course it isn’t). Or decide that calling somebody ‘gay’ is not an insult, which would also fix the problem. Or be strong enough to just take an ‘insult’.

So you see, there are ways enough to stop banning internet access and secure basic human rights. All that is needed is real dedication to democracy, and it’s just not there.

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