Bill could further limit internet freedoms in Turkey
A new parliamentary bill in Turkey may further limit freedom of expression online by monitoring the activity of users and limiting the search of certain keywords.
A major advantage of the internet is that it can provide access to a broad number of topics. While certain ones may be more sensitive than others, the point is that a breadth of different perspectives can be accessed in cyberspace. As discussions of varying nature continue to move online, the relationship of internet freedom and freedom of expression continues to grow more complicated.
This is why surveillance policies and limiting access to certain forms of content is such a dangerous threat to personal liberties. By prohibiting what users can and cannot see, certain parts of political discourse and dissent are limited, and democracy in turn is restricted.
Turkish imposed limitations
The Agence France-Presse reported that the proposed legislation in Turkey would block the searching of keywords that are considered problematic and also limit access to various video sharing websites that use the keywords. On top of this, the bill would allow state officials to keep records of citizens' online activity for two years and monitor the websites that have been visited.
This is concerning news as it comes at a time when political tensions in the country are growing. According to the Los Angeles Times, the country's economy has received a blow following a major corruption scandal that led to the arrest of many major officials. The news source noted that nearly 2,000 police officials including 15 provincial police chiefs and the deputy head of national police have been removed or reassigned.
On top of this, the protests in Istanbul's Gezi Park last year have further added to the tension between government officials and citizens. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been a major proponent of these internet measures.
History of censorship
This kind of action is not new in Turkey, according to Deutsche Welle. The news source noted that in 2007, a law banned the use of YouTube for 18 months, while activists believe that there are about 40,000 websites banned in the country.
On top of this, Turkey submitted the largest amount of requests to internet giant Google from content to be removed. Deutsche Welle noted that the country requested the removal of over 12,000 items during the first half of 2013.
The future of this legislation is quite concerning. The bill is almost sure to be passed, which would lead to a dramatic change in the state of the internet in the country. Internet providers would need to join a state controlled association. Further, not only would they be forced to block websites with content deemed controversial, they would need to block websites that could provide access to these sites.
On top of this, the head of the Internet regulation in the country would be allowed to act immediately and without any potential restrictions "in case of an emergency," though these actions would need to be approved by a judge after 48 hours.
This action has many internet activists concerned about the state of freedom of expression within the state.
"They are using the 'save the children' card," Ahmet Sabanci, an Internet activist in the country, told Deutsche Welle.
"They can block one specific Facebook profile or just one specific Twitter user," he later added.
The action of the Turkish government is quite concerning especially amid these corruption scandals and protests. Rather than allowing the upset citizens of the country to have a larger say in the state of their country, their voices are being repressed. If the country is to see a stronger democracy, it needs to reverse such policies to give the Turkish people a louder voice in their government.