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Turkey's Internet 'Bans' Aren't Lasting Long

The overturning of the recent blocks marks an important step in the broader situation of internet freedom in the country.

by Victoria Turk
Apr 5 2014, 1:15pm

Photo by Reuters

This article originally appeared on MOTHERBOARD.

After failing to block Twitter for any real length of time, Turkey has failed to ban Youtube (as we predicted).

On Friday, a court ordered that the blanket ban on the video site be lifted, on the grounds that it violated human rights, Reuters reports. The country blocked Youtube last week just as a court ruled it had to unblock Twitter. It claimed the Youtube ban was out of concern for national security, following the leak of an audio recording which alleged to capture senior officials discussing military action in Syria.

Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan’s efforts to block the use of Twitter on March 21 have been widely criticized.

While the site is now generally available, 15 videos remain blocked. There are however undoubtedly ways Turkish citizens will be able to access the blocked material, as we’ve seen with the previous blocks—when Twitter was down, use of the dark net spiked, a tool to circumvent the DNS block became Turkey’s most downloaded app, and record levels of tweets were sent.

Turkey banned Twitter and now everyone there is on it. Read more here.

It’s clear by now that Turkey’s “bans” aren’t really living up to their name, and that the country’s courts don’t see eye to eye with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government on issues of so-called “privacy” and “security” versus constitutionally protected freedom of expression.

The overturning of the recent blocks marks an important step in the broader situation of internet freedom in the country. In February, a new law was brought in that allowed Turkey’s telecommunications authority TIB to block websites without a court order in certain circumstances. But so far it seems that, on a practical level, court orders are still carrying a lot of weight—if only after the fact.

The Prime Minister of Turkey is in denial. Read more here.

On Friday, Erdogan spoke out against the decision to overturn the Twitter ban. The Hurriyet Times quoted him as saying, “We have to implement [the ruling], but we don't have to respect it.” He also made comments suggesting that the ruling didn’t go through appropriate legal channels and suggested the court was protecting a commercial company over “national and moral values.”

“I don’t find the freedom approach appropriate because is a commercial company,” he said. In another article, Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the paper the Youtube ban should be treated differently from the Twitter ban. “The Twitter ban is related to privacy, while the ban on YouTube is a matter of national security. It should not be perceived as a restriction of freedoms,” he said.

Erdogan has shown no sign of backing down on his plan to clamp down on social media, and Al Jazeera reports that he vowed to bring to account those who “threaten national security” in a speech after local elections.