Turkey Backs Off on Internet Censoring

By Christina Zhang
Christina Zhang
Christina Zhang
August 10, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015
Turkish Interior Minister Besir Atalay gives a press conference in Ankara, on Aug. 31, 2009. (Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish Interior Minister Besir Atalay gives a press conference in Ankara, on Aug. 31, 2009. (Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images)

Turkey’s Information Technologies Board (BTK) announced it would delay implementing a government-controlled Internet filter until Nov. 22, instead of Aug. 22, as previously planned.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the delayed enforcement date also accompanies modifications to BTK’s filtering regulation, “Procedures and Principles Regarding Safe Internet Use.”

The revised directive will no longer require people to install the filter and it cuts out two of four planned filter levels—“standard” and “domestic”—leaving just “family” and “child.”

In addition, the directive will receive 10 days of public consultation.

Turkey first announced its widely criticized Internet filtering system several months ago, leading to massive protests on May 15.

Later in May, BTK organized a conference that was attended by Internet users, lawyers, and officials from the Telecommunication Communication Presidency to discuss the directive in Bilgi University in Istanbul.

Bianet.org, a Turkish human rights site, reported that most of the conference attendants were in favor of abolishing BTK’s Internet filter plan.

“Awareness must be raised instead of installing a filter,” said Kadir Has University’s Ismail Hakki Polat at the conference, reported Bianet.org.

Although the public widely criticizes the filter, government officials defended the regulation and the Turkish media.

“In terms of press freedom, Turkey is well ahead of America. Turkey has a very progressive press law,” said Turkey’s Interior Minister Besir Atalay, reported National Public Radio.

“Compared with the rest of the world, press freedom here is lived to the fullest,” said the minister.

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton visited Turkey last month and pressured the Turkish government to abandon plans for the filter system.

“People say or do things in my country that I personally find just offensive and unpatriotic and anti-American, and it makes my blood boil,” Clinton said on CNN’s Turkish channel, reported NPR. “But we know that over time, that basically gets overwhelmed by others’ opinion,” said Clinton.