Thursday, July 1, 2010

No Budging on YouTube

The Turkish government is maintaining its position on YouTube, defending its ban of the video-sharing site by stating that Google, which owns YouTube, should and must be treated as any other entity in Turkey. Turkey's Ministry of Trade, which regulates telecommunications here, is claiming YouTube owes Turkey back taxes, a claim Google disputes (for past post, click here).

Access to YouTube and other websites in Turkey has been restricted since 2007 when the government pushed through a law giving broad powers to courts and the Telecommunications Directorate to regulate the Internet. For more on this law and other websites that have been blocked as a result of its application, see Jan. 24 post.

Under the Internet law, either the Telecommunications Directorate or courts have the right to block internet sites that contain content in explicit violation of Turkish law (pertaining to Turkey's many laws against obscenity, morals, slander, insult, etc.).

Meanwhile, an internet rights group, the Internet Technologies Association, has filed suit against the ban, claiming the government is violating Turkish law and the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Similar suits are already on file at the European Court of Human Rights, which has yet to issue a ruling on the law.

From Bianet:
During a speech delivered at the award ceremony of the "IT 500" survey carried out by the Interpromedia Research Service, Yıldırım said, "YouTube is treated just like any other ordinary person".

As reported by the news channel CNN Türk, Yıldırm stated that "shortcuts have already become a tradition" in Turkey. He continued, "This is a global brand, blah blah blah... 'Sir, how can you stick up to this huge company'. If you believe in universal law and if you respect the sovereignty of the countries, you have to stick to the country's rules regardless of who you are dealing with. A citizen from the country 'X' does not have priority in country 'Y'. This conception is incompatible with democracy and modernity".

"Unfortunately, there are people in our country defending this issue on behalf of modernity. That hurts. Everybody is obliged to abide by the law of this country. Nobody has priority. This can be a willing representative or a passionate advocator, it does not concern us".

"We say, 'go ahead, if you do business in this country, you will be treated before the law just as any other ordinary person in the Turkish Republic. We are not concerned with anybody's freedom regarding internet commerce. Turkey is a state of law. Everybody should be tied to the force of law".

Minister Yıldırım indicated that informatics and legislation do not get on well with each other. He argued that informatics is an area that ruins memorization, abolishes conservatism and creates a change of attitude. Legislation on the other hand pursued to keep everything under control, he said.
Yildirim's rather political assessment about the conflict between "legislation" and "infomatics" most surely gives internet rights and free speech activists cause to worry, and indeed seems to hint that the current dispute with Google centers on much more than just back taxes.

UPDATE I (7/5) -- An Ankara court has rejected the Internet Technoogy Association's appeal disputing one of the many various bans Turkish courts have put into effect against YouTube while at the same time adding 44 alternative IP addresses being used to access the site to the existing order. See Bianet for the report. Nicki Sobecki also has a report on the most recent Internet squabble in The Guardian.

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