Friday, June 11, 2010

The Information Blockade

I am taking a break from flotilla-related writing to report about the latest developments in the ongoing case of Turkey v. Google. As recounted here previously, a ban on Google's YouTube ha been in place in Turkey since 2008 after a court ruled that certain videos that were up on the site violated the law against insulting Ataturk. The ban was made possible by new Turkish legislation that critics have called too broad and too arbitrary. You can read about it here.

In recent days, strange things have been happening with several other Google sites. They aren't quite blocked, but access to them has been slowed down to point of them not being usable. Google Maps, for example, is one of the victims. Turkish officials haven't really explained what's going on, but Turkey's transportation minister, also responsible for internet matters, hinted that there was some kind of tax dispute between Ankara and Google.

What's disturbing about the Google slowdown is that rather than by court order (like in the case of YouTube) this action is being done by Telecommunications Directorate, the government agency that monitors the Internet and which is allowed to shut down sites without a court order. A lawsuit in the matter has already been filed by a group of "media freedom activists" who want the Turkish government to lift its Google blockade. Today's Zaman columnist Beril Dedeoglu writes in Friday's paper about the cost of the slowdown to Turkey's e-commerce and tourism sector. Column here.

Obviously, there will be those wags out there who will somehow try to use the Google affair as further evidence that Turkey is "drifting east." This blog will not join them, except to say that liberally interpreting the rule of law and arbitrarily applying it, as well as thuggishly depriving a country's population access to important knowledge-based services to prove a point in a tax dispute, does certainly smack of some kind of drift, eastward or other.

1 comment:

Nomad said...

I think this video- as corny as it is in places- pretty much sums up the situation not only in Turkey but many places in the world.

By the way, I love the characterizations. The craggy teacher and the cackling boss are favorites.