Turkey: UK has its own internet restrictions

Turkey's Communication Minister Lutfi Elvan responded to criticism from the international community over new internet law in Turkey.

Turkey's Communication Minister Lutfi Elvan responded to criticism from the international community over new internet law in Turkey.

By M. Bilal Kenasari

ANKARA - In response to recent criticism over Turkey’s internet law, Turkey's Communications Minister Lutfi Elvan has hit back at international critics, pointing out that, for example, the UK has its own internet restrictions, some of which are controlled by the Internet Watch House (IWH) without court approval.

Turkey has recently come under scrutiny from some members of the international community over its decision to allow authorities, through administrative orders, to block access to legitimate dissenting opinions on the internet.

Amnesty International UK has also voiced concerns, saying that Turkey's internet law will contravene international standards that allow freedom of expression.

Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul signed a controversial internet bill law on Tuesday, which allows the country's national telecommunications authority (TIB) to block access to particular parts of websites without prior court approval, prompting criticism of government censorship.

However, comparing the new bill to UK internet law, Communications Minister Elvan said that IWH “has a blacklist, and works with internet service providers to block sites without even needing a court decision”.

"As an individual, you can also apply to this foundation if any private recording is broadcasted against you to block the site, without needing a court decision. In England, about 100,000 words are blocked in Google search,” Elvan added.

In addition, the Turkish Minister said that the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), for example, can also implement restrictions on internet use.

If the IWF adds a uniform resource locator (URL) to its blacklist, then a particular website will no longer be available to UK users, said Will Head, one of the contributors of IGizmo, a UK-based magazine.

However, he adds that in some cases, IWF can take hostile views; IWF blocked access to the Wikipedia article about popular rock band 'Scorpions' that was deemed potentially illegal.

Head said there is no content in the text that is even remotely illegal.

"Unpleasant and possibly distasteful, yes – but still all perfectly legal," he said. If it had just been the image URL that had been blacklisted, the Wikipedia page would still be visible, but without the controversial album cover shown.”

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