Jul 02 2019

Over 245,000 sites, domains blocked in Turkey over 5 years - report

Turkey has blocked a total of 245,825 websites and domains between 2014-2018, according to a 2018 report by the Istanbul Freedom of Expression Association (İFÖD).

The move to block access to the sites and domains was made by 578 different organisations, with 54,903 sites blocked in 2018 alone, according to the report compiled by academic and cyber-activist Yaman Akdeniz and researcher Ozan Güven.  

A growing list of news sites are facing bans in Turkey, while there has been a surge in arrests for criticising the government and a rise in self-censorship, particularly following a crackdown on social media in the aftermath of the failed coup of July 15, 2016.

A number of news sites remain inaccessible in Turkey, which is ranked among the countries with the highest number of content removal requests sent to Twitter and Facebook, according to the companies’ transparency reports. 

The number of blocked URLS have increased from 171 in 2014 to 3,306 in 2018, the report found, while underscoring that as Turkey enters its 13th year since enacting a censorship law, “the state’s complicated internet censorship mechanism is functioning and developing stronger and more actively than ever.’’ 

Law no. 5651, which was enacted in 2007 to protect children and prevent access to illegal and harmful internet content, has repeatedly been amended over the years to broaden the scope for censorship.

The move by an Istanbul court to block access to an entry in Turkey’s leading social media portal which claimed an affair between Turkish Finance Minister and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak and a Turkish model following an appeal by Albayrak, is a recent latest example of this censorship.

Opposition newspaper Sözcü’s news site topped the list for blocked news pieces in 2018, with 204 items in total, followed by Cumhuriyet with 196 and Hürriyet with 190 items, the report said. 

Turkey forwarded to Twitter a total of 1,105 court decisions to block accounts in 2018, leading the world in the category. Russia and Brazil followed suit with 372 and 107, respectively.

Turkey sent Google 9,183 requests for content removal during these years, the report found, with 4,921 of the requests involving court decisions. 

The report also noted that Turkey’s Interior Ministry examined a total of 26,996 social media accounts in 2018, taking legal action against 13,544.