The Foundation of Alternative Informatics / 25 July 2011
Internet Board published its evaluation and a set of suggestions concerning the central filtration system to be put into use by the State as from August 22 upon the resolution of ICTB. Unfortunately, this report does not only fall behind the expectations of the public opinion but is also full of misleading information.
The public opinion should above all know that all of the opinions put forward by our Foundation and several related NGOs in the Internet Board Meeting have been ignored in this report. All of the participants in the meeting agreed on the fact that central filtering done by the State is certainly unacceptable and the regulation is problematic in all aspects, thus it must immediately be withdrawn. However, the Internet Board suggested that the regulation be re-written and the central filtering system be maintained. This is unacceptable.
The suggestion was to remove standard and national package but to offer only one option for family and child package to users. Yet, the filtering on these profiles will remain central and be based on white and black lists.
It is intended to support central filtering with the material mistakes in the report
The examples given in the evaluation section of the report and the quotations from various reports are full of mistakes. This report mainly aims at proving that “central filtering system is a widespread and necessary application”.
The applications in other countries were explained as follows in the Internet Board Report: “ ‘Filtering’ has been developed in many countries to protect citizens from harmful or illegal content of the Internet. The OECD Report handled the practices and the methods regarding filtering in several countries including Turkey, Australia, Italy, the UK, Korea, Japan, Germany, Spain, Canada, the USA, Mexico, Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden and Norway as follows.” The first sentence is wrong and the second sentence is misleading. Many countries do not apply “filtering”, but develop other methods. And none of the countries mentioned above has a “central filtering” like ours. In some countries internet access is legally blocked off, while in others internet access blockage is voluntary. According to the OECD report referred to in the report, “central filtering” is mandatory only in Turkey.
In Germany and Italy examples given in the report, there is confusion about filtering and internet access blockage. In Australia, filtering has been suspended as a result of the reactions and is being revised now. In the USA, filtering does not cover home users. There is a fund only for filtering at schools and in libraries. Again the expression of “central filtering is widespread” is invalid. For example, in the UK, which is mentioned in the report of Internet Board, there is only one filtering software application. The underlined expression of “Filtering is a legal obligation in Spain” is false, too. What is mandatory in Spain is RAISING AWARENESS, not the use of filtering as it is clearly mentioned in the last lines!
The practices in other countries mentioned in the report are intentionally misrepresented. The purpose is to seek support for the system envisaged to be used in Turkey. However, the practices abroad and many other reports completely conflict with the Internet Board’s report.
Central filtering by the State is censorship
In the above-mentioned OECD report and many other reports which are binding for Turkey, every kind of internet access blockage and filtering is found to be insufficient for the protection of children and central filtering done by the State is qualified as CENSORSHIP. In the report of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe titled “Freedom of Expression on the Internet” dated July 2011, Turkey is pointed out to be the only country where central filtering is done by the State in the whole OSCE region. In this report it is mentioned that OSCE is concerned about this issue. Similarly, United States Secretary of Foreign Affairs shares this concern, too.
OSCE disapproves filtering done by the State and recommends voluntary filtering. However, such filtering software still exists in Turkish software industry. In this sense, there is no need for such a regulation.
The solution is education and raising awareness.
The only way to resolve this issue is education and empowerment of individuals. We need macro techno-social policies at peace with the Internet and far from risk perception. This problem cannot be solved with technical bans. The Coordinator of EU Kids Online Project, Professor Sonia Livingstone states that digital skills are insufficient in Turkey. Digital literacy skill should be gained by people at all levels, including children, parents and even teachers. This point it mentioned in the draft proposal and it should immediately be considered as something more than a well-intentioned suggestion. Digital literacy skill should be gained by people at all levels, including children, parents and even teachers. However, filtering done by the State does not/cannot serve for the democratic and pluralist social/cultural structure at all. On the contrary, it paves the way for creating a uni-dimensional citizen profile and standardizes the public discourse.
The implementation of black and white lists mentioned among the proposals of Internet Board targets nothing but the standardization of citizens. Therefore, no mandatory filtering can be imposed on people unless they choose voluntary family filtering themselves.
All of the parties concerned should participate in the process efficiently.
Among others, it is suggested that the only regulatory actor in filtering should be the General Directorate of Familial and Social Researches. This suggestion is not only insufficient but also conflicts with the mentality of governance, which is required. It is a fundamental deficiency that there is no communication sociologist or new media sociologist in the Advisor Committee. It is recommended that this Committee be constantly be in touch with NGOs and transmit the opinions of the latter to the work group. However, given that our opinions have not been included in the Internet Board’s report, the feasibility of this suggestion is clear even now. The fact that the opinions on which several NGOs openly agreed have not been covered in this reports gives us an idea about what we will be facing in the future.
The opinions of many NGOs and experts including ours have been shared with the public opinion several times.
Internet access is a fundamental human right
Hereby, we want to warn the public opinion against the dangers awaiting Internet users once more.
Internet access has started to be recognized as a fundamental human right across the world. We invite the decision makers in Turkey to avoid conservative, protectionist&preservationist policies that have a high risk perception and give up any implementation which can mean censorship as soon as possible. We invite all the NGOs concerned not to remain unresponsive and we invite all Internet users to take part in the reactions.
We want limitless, uncensored and free Internet.