Wednesday, I was checking Friendfeed to see if anything interesting happened and I saw that elmaaltshift was banned. Fırat Yıldız, the founder of this well known Turkish blog was telling that he was not warned or what so ever. I immediately clicked on the link and saw the famous big red warning “This site is banned due to court decision” For a second, I was also mad but then I thought of a small detail –that I was in Germany and the bans could only effect Turkish Internet users- that made me realize the true nature of this incidence. Fırat was protesting the Turkish government, which has banned a couple of hundred websites last year.
On Wednesday (13.08.2008) the protest got supported by Fırat’s friends, which are more or less the most active crowd in the Turkish blogosphere. Selim Yörük of anafikir.com prepared a simple code for all bloggers and websites to use, which would put the same message on their main pages. In four days, 167 blogs and websites including major blogs and portals such as sinema.com, futuristika.org, burak.com and cisday.org. You can view the full list of the protestors in anafikir.com/sansur. Selim says “Poeple just get used to lose their freedom. This experiment is trying to shock the people by trying to show them how it would be if sites get banned so fast. I think, it increased the awareness of people very well.”
Youtube, Netlog, Slide, Tagged and Alibaba are some of the major sites that were banned over the course of two years. Youtube for example is still banned and cannot be reached from Turkey. There are a zillion ways to get over the ban, but of course this is no excuse. There are also some gags, that are actually quite funny; IMDB.com was also going to be banned because some movie producers thought that IMDB is a source to download DIVX movies. Later on, it came out that they were trying to ban IMBD.com because of a typo. And as far as I know, IMDB was never banned…
Alibaba.com? Why ban an e-commerce platform? Does it damage the Turkish market? Or what about Slide.com? Why would one ever want to ban a presentation-sharing portal? There are many speculations about the reason of these bans. More than often, a court in a quite small town in Turkey will decide if the accused sites should be banned or not.
Is there a solution?
Başak Purut, a Turkish lawyer who specialized in these kind of processes says that “this kind of protests will lead us nowhere, because Turkish politicians absolutely don’t care which sites are banned and why.” He also thinks that the law will get stricter in the future and the only way to solve this issue is to get the attention of the EU, which would maybe talk Turkish politicians into changing the law that regulates the bans.
This is an option, that would solve the problem, but there is another solution for the companies that want to keep their products online in Turkey: Open an office in Turkey. Every company that wishes to get the huge amount of traffic from countries like Turkey, has to deal with the fact that it IS a different country with its own rules. Whether these rules are correct or not, is another discussion topic and it should be clear by now what I think of them, but it is also clear that these rules are not going to change for a while. Youtube was banned 3 or 4 times, and the last one lasted longer then three months (still on by the way). There is something wrong with that… It is a question of importance. How important is it to Youtube, a company of Google that it is down in Turkey for three months? Now there are rumous of a youtube.com.tr, a local version of youtube which will exclude illegal content. Global players have to consider these kind of ‘details’ or they lose markets to smaller local players faster than they can anticipate.
UPDATE: More blogs are starting to talk about this. Check this article on Techcrunch.