REEDOM ON THE
Currently, access to the following services is blocked: Last.fm, Metacafe, Dailymotion, Google
groups, and the photo-sharing website Slide. Access to the popular digital documents sharing
website Scribd was also blocked in March 2013 by an Istanbul Court.
In most instances, large-
scale shutdowns of these websites have been blunt efforts to halt the circulation of specific content
that is deemed undesirable or illegal by the government. YouTube, for example, was intermittently
blocked multiple times in recent years to prevent users from accessing videos critical of Turkey’s
founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, although it has remained accessible since October 2010.
Since October 2012, YouTube operates in the country under a local “com.tr” domain which, the
authorities claim, makes it easier for them to ask Google to remove objectionable content.
The responsibilities of content providers, hosting companies, mass-use providers, and ISPs are
delineated in Law No. 5651, enacted in May 2007 and titled “Regulation of Publications on the
Internet and Suppression of Crimes Committed by Means of Such Publication.”
The law’s most
important provision calls for the blocking of websites that contain certain types of content,
including material that shows or promotes the sexual exploitation and abuse of children, obscenity,
prostitution, or gambling. Also targeted for blocking are websites deemed to insult Mustafa Kemal
Ataturk, the founding father of modern Turkey. Domestically hosted websites with proscribed
content can be taken down, while websites based abroad can be blocked and filtered through ISPs.
In April 2011, the TIB sent a letter to hosting companies based in Turkey with a list of 138
potentially provocative words that may not be used in domain names and websites.
strong national and international criticism, to which the TIB responded that the list of words was
intended to help hosting companies identify and remove allegedly illegal web content.
to Engelliweb.com, there were over 29,000 blocked websites as of May 2013.
Although Law No. 5651 was designed to protect children from illegal and harmful internet
content, its broad application to date has effectively restricted adults’ access to some legal content.
In some instances, the courts have also made politically motivated judgments to block websites
using other laws. For example, the courts have indefinitely blocked access to the websites of several
alternative news sources that report news on southeastern Turkey and Kurdish issues, such as
Atilim, Özgür Gündem, Azadiya Welat, Keditör, Günlük Gazetesi, and Firat News Agency. Access
to the website of Richard Dawkins, a British etiologist, evolutionary biologist and popular science
writer, was blocked in September 2008 after a pro-creationist Islamist claimed that the website
Istanbul 12th Criminal Court of Peace, Decision No 2013/209 D., 08.03.2013.
See further Reuters, “YouTube opens Turkish site, giving government more control,” 02 October, 2012 at
Law No 5651 was published on the Turkish Official Gazette on 23.05.2007, No. 26030. A copy of the law can be found (in
Turkish) at http://www.wipo.int/wipolex/en/details.jsp?id=11035.
Several “controversial words” appeared on the list of "banned words" including: Adrianne (no one knows who she is), Haydar
(no one knows who he is), aayvan (animal), baldiz (sister‐in‐law), buyutucu (enlarger), ciplak (nude), citir (crispy), etek (skirt),
free, girl, ateşli (passionate), frikik (freekick), gay, gizli (confidential), gogus (breast), hikaye (story), homemade, hot, İtiraf
(confession), liseli (high school student), nefes (breath), partner, sarisin (blond), sicak (hot), sisman (overweight), yasak
(forbidden), yerli (local), yetiskin (adult), and so on.
Ekin Karaca, “138 Words Banned from the Internet,” Bianet, April 29, 2011, http://www.bianet.org/english/freedom‐of‐
expression/129626‐138‐words‐banned‐from‐the‐internet; See also, Erisa Dautaj Senerdem, “TIB’s ‘forbidden words list’
inconsistent with law, say Turkish web providers,” Hurriyet Daily News, April 29, 2011,
Engelliweb.com is a website that documents information about blocked websites from Turkey. Accessed May 8, 2013.