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New report sheds light onto Internet censorship in Turkey

While it's no secret that there are a number of governments across the globe that make often extreme efforts to prevent citizens from expressing themselves freely on the Internet, what remains unique to each culture are the different ways that these limitations are carried out. Studies have been conducted into the inner workings of censored countries in the age of the Internet and the challenges that face governments trying to implement restrictive policies versus their citizens' ability to affect change, shedding light onto the individual issues each country faces.

According to a recent analysis from technology blog IVPN, Turkey is one of the most highly regulated Web cultures in the world, and it's no accident – here's a look into the efforts being taken to ensure that those using social media and blogs in these countries are foiled at every turn.

Freedom House releases detailed report on censorship in Turkey
Advocacy blog Freedom House recently published a four-part report detailing the extent of Internet censorship and its increasing prevalence in the culture over the past year. In the section labeled "May 2013 – July 2014: Turkey's Long Year of Content Restrictions Online", contributor Nate Schenkkan explored some of the specific limitations that users of the Internet faced up until very recently.

Much of this hinges on legislation passed in 2007 called "Law 5651," which allowed the government to block tens of thousands of websites without providing a detailed explanation as to why the content could be considered harmful. In late 2012, the European Convention on Human Rights found that the law lacked any framework to qualify a website as purveyed dangerous content, and requested that the country revise or repeal the highly limiting legislation. In spite of this incriminating development, Turkey did not take any significant action for another calendar year.

What's more, limitation on access to content extends beyond blocking the access citizens have to specific landing pages, Schenkkan explained – the trouble trickles down to where the people of Turkey receive their news from.

"The country's largest media outlets are owned by corporate holding companies that depend heavily on government procurement contracts in areas like construction, housing, transport, and logistics," the source explained. "This makes the outlets vulnerable to government pressure, and incentivizes holding companies to use their media arms as lobbying firms for major government contracts."

That is, the Turkish government has a hold on many domestic news outlets, making some of the information conveyed to citizens inherently unreliable. Frustrated citizens have struggled with these news sources for years since Law 5651 meant that they did not have access to sources that were truthful, causing many to turn to social media to express their frustrations.

Social media offers outlet and rise in citizen journalism
In a separate section of the Freedom House exposee, contributor Aslı Tunç explained how Turkish citizens have attempted with surprising levels of success to trump the misreporting and censorship imposed upon them by communicating on popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Following the famed Gezi Park protests in 2013, which addressed anger toward Law 5651 and general Internet blockage, everyday people took to the Internet to show the rest of the world what was going on.

Over 40 percent of the country's population have Facebook accounts, and 90 percent of users are extremely active on the service. Between 2012 and today, the amount of social media users in the country has swelled to nearly ten million – the Gezi Park incident made citizen journalism a viable source of information exchange when Turkish news outlets refused to report accurately, leading citizens to trust in each other before the media.

Freedom House's report is likely to make some serious waves in the coming weeks, and it will be interesting to see what the government's response to the takedown will be.

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