On April 26, 2011, there appeared stories in some news publications that the “Safer Internet” service, a central filtering by the government which was deployed and offered to citizens on November 22, 2011, was being supported by some universities, who regarded it as a useful and example practice and that relevant decisions were being taken at the university senates.
We, as academics studying on the Safe Use of Internet, Media and New Media at national and international level, want to urgently draw attention to these matters:
- This filter was protested on May 15, 2011 by tens of thousands of citizens on the streets; it was opposed by almost all informatics NGOs in our country because “a central filtering practice was unacceptable”; it was criticised by OSCE and in several other international reports because it restricts free speech, and finally there is an ongoing trial for its cancellation at the Council of State. In these circumstances, it is unacceptable scientifically and ethically for Senates to support the filter in behalf of Universities, institutions where free thought, science and universal values are produced.
- Because the deployment did not trigger adequate interest, ICTA, intending to absolve the filter practice and impose it without questioning, has attempted several publicity campaigns including the aforementioned news story. It is vitally serious and dangerous that Universities, which must be centers of critical, scientific and free thought, were being used as tools in a publicity campaign.
- The filter deployed in November 22, 2011 is a central, arbitrary and non-transparent filtering and censorship system. That the filter is being chosen by users does not remove the fact of censorship being carried out by government hands. The deployment restricts the limits of free speech, and imposes a uniform family/child design to citizens. Even if the filter is chosen voluntarily, the government has neither duty nor authority to decide on the websites citizens will access. Protecting children and families cannot be a justification for government censorship. Safety is a natural right and need for all citizens and children. But the aforementioned filters are absolutely not a solution for this. The safe use of Internet is not possible through filters, but digital literacy. Central filtering is not recommended in any democratic country. Unfortunately, among the OSCE member countries, the only country using central filtering is Turkey. Those who deploy central government filters are countries like North Korea, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia.
- Therefore, we do not support ICTA’s filtered Internet practice. Being only a “Chinese wall” constructed by ICTA, it subjects the Internet as a public sphere and freedoms to access information and free speech to censorship, and is actually not able to protect children and youth from various risks on the Internet. We know that the true solution and policies required for our children and youth in Turkey to benefit from the possibilities of the Internet is through developing digital literacy skills so that the individuals can decide for themselves using their free will, not the government on behalf of them.
We thus respectfully announce to the Public and the Universities.
For support, please write an email with your name/institution to firstname.lastname@example.org .