Turkey increases internet censorship with new legislation

The Turkish parliament has approved new censorship legislation that allows the telecom regulator to shut down websites without a judge having to give the green light first.

The parliament, in which Erdogan’s AK party has a majority, approved the new legislation on Wednesday. This further tightens the existing legislation, which has already been compared by Google, for example, with the Chinese censorship policy.

For example, the Directorate of Telecommunications, the regulator for the telecom sector, is given the right to block a website if it contains offensive content or if it would affect privacy. This no longer requires going to court.

In addition to the option to take websites off the air, the regulator also has the right to request user data from internet providers without the intervention of a court, as well as lists of people’s surfing behavior. Providers are also obliged to keep this information for at least two years.

A law professor in Istanbul calls the tightened censorship measures ‘Orwellian’. The country would distance itself even further from European standards. D66 MEP Marietje Schaake informed the AFP news agency that the measures are ‘unacceptable’ and that the EU, which has been negotiating with Turkey for years about a possible accession to the European Union, must make this clear.

Similar voices are heard from human rights organizations and journalists, and the business community is also criticised. Opposition parties argue that Erdogan is using the censorship measures to further suppress the corruption scandal in which various party members are involved. The AK party rejects the criticism, stating that Turkey is significantly freer than many other countries and that there is freedom of the press in the country. Despite this, more than 40,000 websites have been blocked since 2007 and hundreds of journalists have been fired or jailed. In addition, during the street protests last summer, Erdogan called social networking services such as Twitter and Facebook a “social malady.”