WE ALSO WANT SAFER INTERNET USE! THERE IS NO INTERNET SPECIFIC TO TURKEY!

Alternative Information Technologies Association
(prepared by Ali Rıza Keleş, Günseli Bayraktutan,
Işık Barış Fidaner, Mutlu Binark and Tuğrul Çomu)

Web: http://www.alternatifbilisim.org
E-mail: bilgi@alternatifbilisim.org
Twitter: @altbilisim

  • It should above all be known that Information Technologies and Communications Authority (ICTA), is the infrastructure regulatory authority of the Internet environment; hence, it is neither legally authorized in nor responsible for “filtering” the Internet environment under the pretext of ensuring “so-called safe” use.

ICTA was founded as “Institution of Telecommunication” liable to realize technical regulations (such as port out-in, establishment of competition in telecommunication sector, digital signature etc.) in the field of radio telephone and telecommunication, and later in 2008 it was given its current name.

 “Draft procedures and principles regarding the safe use of the internet” prepared by ICTA’s Sectorial Competition and Consumer Rights Department according to Articles 4, 6 and 50 of the  Law numbered 5809 as well as the clauses of  Article 10 of the Regulation for Consumer Rights in Electronics Communication Sector put into effect after being published in the  Official Gazette dated 28.07.2010 and numbered 27655 were confirmed on 22 February 2011 upon the decree numbered 2011/DK-10/91 and were published under the title of ICTA’s Board Decisions on March 4, 2011.

This Board Decision censors the use of Internet in Turkey via Internet Service Suppliers (ISS) and restricts “the right of access to information”. Informatics Lawyers such as Prof. Dr. Yaman Akdeniz, Assoc. Dr. Kerem Altıparmak, Gökhan Ahi and Ayşe Kaymak agree that this Board Decision is illegal. Furthermore, IPS Independent Communication Network filed an action of annulment to the Council of State on April 13, 2011. (See: http://www.ntvmsnbc.com/id/25202997/ Date accessed: 14.04.2011) to cancel this Board Decision.

Although it is claimed that the Board Decision in question is based on the clauses 4 and 6  of Communication Law numbered 5809; in fact, it explicitly violates those clauses. When we take a brief look the Board Decision, we see that:

  • The principles of transparency[1], objectivity[2] and impartiality[3] are violated because what will be taken into consideration in the preparation of white and black lists is unknown;
  • The principle of transparency[4] is violated because objection procedure for any website placed in black list is not explained;
  • Compliance[5] with international norms is not ensured because contents that are filtered through the profiles are imposed on users;
  • The security of information and confidentiality of communication[6] are violated because technically ISSs are made to audit the content that users want to access and then they can allow users to have access to the content;
  • Fair competition environment cannot be guaranteed[7], because on the one hand the decisions are binding only for local providers, leading the international providers to gain competitive advantage and on the other hand, the international providers cannot take part in the “local profile”;
  • The confidentiality of personal data is not protected[8] because ISSs are held responsible for preventing the efforts to overcome filtering and informing the Board about the results of such an action. Moreover, which data can be targeted by ISS is not explained, which also causes the violation of confidentiality.

In accordance with the law numbered 5651, which authorizes the Board to block internet access in certain cases, ISSs do not have to audit the compatibility of contents with the laws[9]. However, the Board Decision in question holds ISSs responsible for auditing the contents by using the lists prepared by ICTA.

At this point, we need to underline one more important point. The  understanding of “good governance”  on which neo-liberal state structures are based and that has been restructuring the functioning mechanisms of all public institutions and organizations in Turkey since 2000s underlines the transparency of managers, the necessity of informing public opinion and accountability. Within this framework, that ICTA has attempted to regulate the Internet use without acting transparently in a subject involving all citizens without exception is a concrete example of the failure to comply with good governance principles. In fact, this latest development shows that the institutions whose “raison d’être” is to protect “public interest” ignore their main mission and act to form a “certain public opinion”; they standardize citizens and they are neither transparent nor accountable in a subject which concerns all citizens.  The purpose of good governance is to ensure the togetherness of the State and people and to pave the way for joint administration of the country. ICTA is trying to impose this illegal and invalid Board Decision underhand without informing the public opinion properly, which means the violation of the citizens’ right to be informed through free and democratic discussions.  This regulation does not contribute to the togetherness of the State and people in Turkey, which conflicts with the original purpose of good governance..

 

  • There is no Internet specific to Turkey! Total and mandotary filtering by the State is nothing but censorship!

Supported by UN, Freedom House published a report titled Freedom on the Internet in April 2011.In this report, Turkey’s “bad rating” was increased to 45 from 42. This rating change indicates that the political and legal discourse in Turkey is getting more and more restrictive when it comes to Internet access.  The Board Decision of ICTA will normalize the censor on the Internet, make the questioning of censor impossible and render all censoring acts invisible. Thus, we cannot help asking the following questions: What is the purpose of this implementation? Is it to deprive people of their rights to access different ideas and opinions and remove the opportunities to distribute and circulate different contents? In other words, do they aim to seize and limit people’s freedom of expression and access to information? Is this a kind of project to create “one truth, one space and standardized individuals?”

  • Auditing and tagging standard users

 It is verbally said that this regulation does not change the standard user profile and this profile is “the existing profile”. However, the Board Decision published in the Official Gazette says the otherwise. It should be mentioned that not the verbal but the written expressions are valid in a country where there is rule of law.  Given the functioning of public institutions, it is impossible to understand press meetings during which the authorities say “We have not documented them, but we will do them”. As is known, the webpages to which Internet access is blocked can be opened with various methods. However, the Board Decision makes it obligatory for ISSs to fight against the anti-filtering methods. Beyond this, the obligation of informing ICTA about the anti-filtering initiatives and their results also means that ICTA will be informed about which user is trying to which content. This is in fact electronic “tagging”.  Besides, ISSs make notifications about the blocked pages currently. Yet, this new regulation stipulates that ISSs check whether a website that a user is trying to connect falls into the scope of ICTA’s lists and allow access to that website unless it is in the black list.  In theory, this regulation does not seem to be creating a difference. However, in practice an automated blockage system is going to be operated for the users in standard profile. Considering that even the websites to which internet access has been blocked in line with the law numbered 5651 are not announced to public, it is easy to foresee the risks likely to occur from the automation of blockage system.

 

  • White and Black Lists

What do “Principles and Procedures regarding Safe Use of Internet” introduce? All Internet users in Turkey are classified in some way and they are forced to choose one of the family package, child package, domestic package or standard package options. ICTA puts restrictions with varying degrees on the content of the websites that are accessible in these packages under the pretext of protecting users from harmful content.

Based on this Board Decision and Articles 14 and 15 of the principles and procedures in question, ICTA will be authorized to provide access to “recognized” websites that are in the “white” lists targeting children and filter the webpages that are in “black” or in one sense “banned” lists and should be inaccessible by families. On which websites, social sharing networks, discussion groups or blogs will ICTA put its “black” label and on behalf of which citizen? For which socio-cultural and economic interest group’s “power” will this tagging serve? Whose socio-cultural and economic representation on the Internet will be inaccessible and invisible?

In fact putting “black tags” and segregating certain social, cultural and economic phenomena on the Internet can be considered to support the otherisation of individuals based on their ethnicities, religious beliefs, sects, sexual identities and political views.  Such a practice also promotes the idea that if different from the majority, people constitute a threat to its existence. Thus, the majority of people, particularly parents are deluded through this “common sense” operation which supposedly targets to protect children from harmful contents on the Internet such as pornography, obscenity and gambling.  Moral panic, a term widely used in communication sociology and the academic language of sociologists, is thus created in the society and on the side of parents and is fostered by the discursive practices such as “there is % … access to the dangerous …. site”, “I encounter unwanted …. in each website” and etc.  

What is moral panic? As Stanley Cohen puts it, “moral panic” is the situation, people and groups that are qualified as a threat to social values and benefits and it is presented in a certain format and in a stereotyped way by mass communication tools” (cited by Bremmer 1997:2 from1980:9). Moral panic is in fact a type of social construction, because it reproduces and fosters the society’s existing fears and concerns.

Another question which we cannot help asking ourselves is as follows: While children are being protected from harmful contents such as “excessive obscenity or pornography”, why aren’t there any efforts at all to protect them from a thing which is maybe more dangerous: that’s the hate speech which normalizes any kind of discrimination, produces the lynch regime, paves the way for hate crimes and points certain religions, sects, sexual identities, political views and foreigners as targets. Why DOES the hegemonic discourse IGNORE the need to protect children from hate speech? Hate speech IS NOT EVEN ON THEIR AGENDA, why?     

To give a current example: On May 7, 2001, Bursaspor-Beşiktaş match hosted by Bursaspor was canceled because of the fans’ violent acts. The hate speech and discrimination on the websites of football fans are on the increase. Besides, the user-derivative contents produced by fans turn hate speech into a popular culture product and hate speech is thus normalized and taken for granted. WHY DON’T THE REGULATORY AUTHORITIES IN TURKEY PROBLEMATIZE SUCH AGGRESSIVE AND DISCRIMINATORY CONTENTS ON THE INTERNET?

The social phenomenon that ICTA cannot comprehend is as follows:  NEITHER VIOLENCE NOR AGRESSION, NEITHER SEXUAL ABUSE NOR PEER BULLYING TAKE ROOT ON THE INTERNET. VIOLENCE, AGGRESSION, SEXUAL ABUSE AND PEER BULLYING OCCUR IN OUR DAILY LIVES. IN OTHER WORDS, ALL OF THE RISKS ARE IN THIS OFFLINE WORLD. BLOCKING ACCESS TO THESE RISKY CONTENTS DOESN’T ENABLE US TO REMOVE THESE RISKS FROM THIS WORLD.

The Director of the  EU Kids Online Project carried out in 25 countries including Turkey, Professor Dr. Sonia Livingstone  delivered a speech in “The Future of  E-Youth” conference on May 27, 2010 and said that researchers on the online risks children are likely to face with should be constantly done and updated.  She warned researchers against the moral panic likely to be created by particularly public institutions and the media regarding the online risks children may encounter. According to Livingstone, researchers must pay attention to the following question: “Are the online risks more dangerous than offline risks?” Besides, Livingstone says that families can be endowed with quality information about the use of Internet if they are informed about the risks and opportunities equally instead of being frightened through online risk stories.

Then, why is the emphasis increasingly put on the risks instead of various Internet opportunities such as education-learning, content development and sharing, socialization, equal participation of citizens and career development? In addition, we would like to share one more finding in the final report of the project which we have briefly explained above: “A comparative study on the countries shows that about 1/8 of the children in Estonia, Lithuania, Norway, Czech Republic and Sweden are exposed to one or more risk(s). The rate of risk exposure is the least in Turkey, Portugal and Italy. ”

(See: http://www2.lse.ac.uk/media@lse/research/EUKidsOnline/EUKidsII%20(2009-11)/EUKidsExecSummary/TurkeyExecSum.pdf, Access Date: May 8, 2011).

As is known, it was Sonia Livingstone who opened the Safe Internet Day held in February 2011 in Ankara by the Internet Board, Information Technologies Board and ICTA. Therefore, it is suggested that the above-mentioned institutions give ear and pay attention to the scientific findings and recommendations drawn from an international research led by Livingstone, whom they invited to Turkey. In fact, this research orients the literature in communication technologies.

 

  • There are different types of filtering all around the world, but the Council of Europe recommends education!

Since a great majority of Internet users are young people and children, both non-governmental organizations and governments have always discussed over the methods to protect children on the Internet. Blocking is an approach and filtering is a method adopted in many countries.

Filtering is software which prevents access to already-defined contents and/or services. There are various types of software that can be used by families who need such a method in Turkey and they are already in use. Those who wish can have this type of software usually free of charge or in return for a very little amount of money. It is observed that some parents prefer to use filtering software abroad. However, such filtering has never been an application imposed on users by a certain authority. It has never been something as described in ICTA’s new regulation. In fact, the Council of Europe advises against mandotary filtering. Mandotary filtering exists only in countries such as People’s Republic of China, Cuba, Iran and Thailand where citizens’ access to cyberspace is restricted.  

At this point, it should clearly be mentioned that filtering is not a successful method. Technological bans do not suffice themselves to make the Internet a safe milieu for children and young people and no filtering method in the world can/will be able to keep up with the blocking speed of repressive mindset! Such filtering applications can always and easily be deactivated.

In the text titled “Security Tips” which includes the proposals of the Safer Internet program developed by the Internet Board, ICTB and TIB in Turkey in 2010 and 2011and supported by European Commission, the following answer is given to the parents who posed the question “What should I do until good filters are developed?”:  “Filtering the Internet content can support parents and teachers in their giving education to children and young people in the media. Yet, this is not sufficient itself because it cannot intervene in children’s’ using online communication services. The educational supervision/support at school and home will contribute to the education of young people more than technological obstacles do and they will improve Internet and mobile online technologies as they use them.”

(See:http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/sip/safety_tips/index_en.htm#7_parental_control, Access Date: 8 May 2011)

Besides, technological prevention, in other words filtering is not mentioned among the below mentioned tips proposed in the document titled “Let’s work together for safer internet” that is published for parents within the framework of EU Kids Online project:

-“Talk with your children; ask them to show you what they are doing on the Internet. The basic element for security is communication.

-Follow the latest news about Internet security on the following link: www.guvenliweb.org.tr

– Many dangers on the Internet are related to attitude and manners not technology. The best guide in your online and offline world is your life experience.”  (See: http://www2.lse.ac.uk/media@lse/research/EUKidsOnline/EUKidsII%20(2009-11)/Information%20for%20parents/Leaflets/Turkey.doc Access Date 8 May 2011)

In this context, we would like to remind that the finding in the project’s final report is very important: “A comparative study on the countries shows that about 1/8 of the children in Estonia, Lithuania, Norway, Czech Republic and Sweden are exposed to one or more risk(s). The rate of risk exposure is the least in Turkey, Portugal and Italy.”(See: http://www2.lse.ac.uk/media@lse/research/EUKidsOnline/EUKidsII%20(2009-11)/EUKidsExecSummary/TurkeyExecSum.pdf, Access Date 8 May 2011).

We would like to reiterate: The permanent and real solution for Internet use is to increase the awareness of, empower and support children and young people through education. For example, CRTICAL DIGITAL LITERACY can be used as an educational support and empowering mechanism of this type. Therefore, the establishment of open communication based on mutual trust between families and parents is the most important thing. 

If ICTA justifies this filtering with the “alleged” purpose of protecting users, it should know that a great number of filtering options already exist in the market and those who want to use them can do so. Since there is no one single type of family, thus no one single type of child in Turkey, there can be no one single type of filtering. Thus, ICTA cannot process one single type of filtering from pedagogical and sociological aspects.  Consequently, any filtering imposed centrally by the State and   black& white lists the writers and criteria of which are unknown can be nothing but censoring.

 

  • Private companies already offer filtering packages for families!

It is already a legal obligation to use filtering software at collective access points out of home to ensure the protection of children.[10] First Internet cafés and schools come to mind when collective access points are in question. Such software can be provided from the Internet free of charge or in return for a certain amount and those who want to use them can install them on their own computers. Some of these software programs are approved by ICTA and the approved ones are clearly given on its webpage.  Besides, the Internet Board provides information about these software programs .[11]

It is enough to write “filter” in a search engine to have access to such software. It should also be mentioned that many operating systems (like Windows) and Internet security programs offer web filtering option. Some service providers such as Superonline[12], TTNET[13]  and SmileADSL[14] provide their subscribers with such programs in return for a certain fee or FREE OF CHARGE.

KabloNet[15]  provides filtering service upon the demand of its subscribers. In other words, there are enough filtering programs in the market. Thus, why ICTA is trying to monopolize filtering is incomprehensible. It should also be remembered that if the Board Decision in question is put into force, companies preparing filtering software will remain passive and jobless.

Currently, the users who need filtering are free to choose the best program or service satisfying their needs. Yet, with this Board Decision, users are deprived of this freedom and standardized in the framework of profiles created by ICTA.

 

  • Children can be protected by their FAMILIES! They need to be supported so that they can enjoy QUALIFIED Internet use; we should prepare children for the Internet medium just as we prepare them for the world!

We also want SAFE AND QUALIFIED INTERNET USE. Therefore, we give importance to the DEVELOPMENT OF DOMESTIC COMMUNICATION CHANNELS AND THE USE OF PEDAGOGIC TOOLS.

In our opinion, to ensure safe and qualified internet use, it is necessary to make regulations preventing the violation of privacy and guaranteeing the security of personal data. We should support new media in which qualified information sources are popularized against excessive commercialization and trivialization of information. We also need to raise awareness of all citizens regardless of their age against the  contents including aggression and hate speech.

 

  • On the Internet, we are CITIZENS, not “consumers”!

Contrary to what some ideologues supporting the hegemonic discourse of ICTA put forward, users of the new media are not “consumers”, but citizens. In accordance with Article 1 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every citizen has two fundamental features resulting from “being human”: they are endowed with reason and conscience. Any person endowed with reason and conscience makes choices shaping his/her life and assumes the responsibility of his/her actions. Citizens have the right to access information, documents, opinions and ideas so that they can form their opinions about a given subject with their free will and they can reason. This right is obviously an integral part of the freedom of expression.

Only if they can enjoy their political, social, cultural and economic rights equally, can citizens participate in liberal democratic societies. Therefore, any mandotary regulation which would prevent the development of people’s discernment and free will is against the idea of democratic society. In this respect, we need to underline the fact that the mentality behind this Board Decision does not take citizens as individuals.

 

  • DNS and proxy are not the tools of overcoming access blockage!

DNS and Proxy are the network technologies which regulate, facilitate and accelerate communication on the Internet. These technologies are indispensable for online communication as they provide non-stop service to individual users or any kind of network systems. Consciously or not, we use these systems at every single point we access to the Internet for many times a day. The raison d’être of these systems is not to overcome access blockage. They cannot be regarded as the tools of overcoming blockage. A total or partial restriction of these technologies gives harm to the Internet. Such an implementation will lead some services to become idle or function improperly, which means great losses of speed and performance for users and severe economic loss and extra work load for Internet service providers.

 

  • We are against the enforcement of illegal Board Decision!

We ALSO WANT SAFER and QUALIFIED INTERNET USE! WE DON’T WANT GOVERNMENTS THAT ONLY ASK FOR CITIZENS’ VOTES BEFORE THE ELECTIONS; WE WANT GOVERNMENTS THAT ACCEPT THE FACT THAT CITIZENS ARE ENDOWED WITH CONSCIENCE AND MIND, RESPECT THEIR FUNDEMENTAL LIBERAL RIGHTS IN LINE WITH ARTICLES 17 OF THE CONSTITUTION[16] AND SUPPORT POSITIVE RIGHTS TO GUARANTEE NEGATIVE RIGHTS.

  • All related actors must be involved in the preparation of regulations concerning the Internet!

These regulations are prepared with the intermediation of public institutions only and without informing the public opinion properly and they are being enforced underhand. We invite all those actors including the actors of new media economy/industry, non-governmental organizations, communication experts, sociologists, lawyers, pedagogues to re-make these regulations primarily the law numbered 5651 regulating the Internet access.

 

WE CALL FOR CITIZENS’ INVOLVEMENT IN ALL PROCESSES FOR FREE INTERNET AS THEY CALL FOR DEMOCRATIC CONSTITUTION!

 

                                                                                                                                                                           10 May 2011

 


[1] Law numbered 5809, Article 4(e)

[2] Law numbered 5809, Article 4(d) and (e)

[3] Law numbered 5809, Article 4(j)

[4] Law numbered 5809, Article 4(e)

[5] Law numbered 5809, Article 4(f)

[6] Law numbered 5809, Article 4(j) and Article 6(c)

[7] Law numbered 5809, Article 6(1) a and b

[8] Law numbered 5809, Article 12

[9] Law numbered 5651, Article 6(2)

[10] Law numbered 5651, Article 7(2)

[16] Article 17 – Everybody has the right to live, protect and develop his/her material and spiritual existence.

Click here for the PDF edition.

Click here for the orijinal text in Turkish.

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