Turkey Almost Lost Its Internet

For years the Turkish Information and Communications Technologies Authority (BTK) has tried to prevent its citizens from watching Drake videos on YouTube. This year they upped the ante.

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Jan 2 2012, 3:00pm


Illustration by Sam Taylor

For years the Turkish Information and Communications Technologies Authority (BTK) has tried to prevent its citizens from watching Drake videos on YouTube. This year they upped the ante, flagging 138 words—including blonde and gay—to be banned for use in domain names and drafted a law that would require stricter filtration of content, inspiring Turkey’s young creative classes to protest and wave banners with slogans about shoving modems up bums.

The demonstration took place on May 15, with approximately 50,000 Turkish citizens taking to the streets in protest. It was yet another battle in Turkey’s seemingly endless censorship war. In March 2007, YouTube was blocked for hosting videos that attacked Kemal Atatürk, the founder of Turkish republic (the ban has been intermittently enforced ever since). Among the 15,000 websites occasionally blacklisted by the vacillating Turkish government: the website of British atheist Richard Dawkins, Blogspot, Last.fm, and Myspace.

It seems, though, that legislation recently proposed by BTK was a step too far. The proposal, which was to go into effect on August 22, requires internet service providers to offer four mandatory filters, from which consumers can choose: “family,” “child,” “domestic,” and “standard.” BTK would determine what falls into each classification, using its elastic standards of morality. Additionally, BTK drew up a list of 138 words no longer allowed in domain names, which was massive LOLs because it included words like baldiz (which translates to “sister-in-law”), Adrianne, which probably refers to sexy women in general, the word forbidden itself, as well as chubby, breath, story, and nubile. The most ridiculous was the proposed ban of the name Haydar, a popular first name in the region that in rural Anatolia doubles as slang for “penis.” It’s the equivalent of trying to ban URLs that include the names Dick, Fanny, or Willy.

Thousands of people took to the streets with banners bearing slogans like “Yes We Ban,” “Don’t Mess with My Links,” “Don’t Touch My Internet, Touch My Penis Instead,” and “Anna Nicole Smith Would Have Been Sad to See This.” Of course, many sported Guy Fawkes masks. There were no acts of violence but thousands chanted creative insults aimed at Turkish officials, most of which followed the tune of popular Turkish football chants but with alternative lyrics like “shove your internet-less modem up your ass.”

The march garnered widespread local and international media coverage, leading the BTK to postpone the legislation’s introduction until November 22, 2011 (a day after this issue went to press). The new plan is to have only two filters: “family” and “children,” and let those who do not want filtering to opt out. Who knows what’ll happen between then and the time you read this article, but we guarantee it will be both hilarious and troubling.
 

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