This Act is allowing the restriction of access to the Web sites without requiring permission from Court if it is found that the relevant Web site is committing one or more of 8 different crimes, which are described as the catalogue crimes. These catalogue crimes are described as “Inducement to Suicide”, “Child Sexual Abuse”, “Facilitation of the Use of Narcotics and Exhilarants”, “Delivery of Health Treating Substances”, “Obscenity”, “Prostitution”, “Providing Place and Opportunity for Gambling”, “Crimes Committed Against Ataturk” and “…race track operating, betting on constant possibilities or providing opportunity for these”.
Claiming citizens can directly apply to Telecommunication Contact Directorship (TIB), which is a regulatory establishment, or sound their claims to attorneys.
However, accusations of the Web sites are not limited to these catalogue crimes. Some other accusations include “violation of personnel privacy”, “insult” or “Disobedience to the Intellectual and Artistic Works Act”.
Although press is only interested in YouTube ban, there are many other access restrictions. Recently Telecommunication Contact Directorship released a report detailing the number of restricted Web sites, which were banned directly by them or via related court orders. To be more accurate, they just released transaction numbers.
Accusation Number is 21,378 by Citizens, While 11,494 is put into Investigation
According to this report, 21,378 accusations were made until 18th of August, and majority (93% or 10,728) of these were made via a hotline site placed at www.ihbarweb.org.tr Web address. Some of these accusations were repeated and some were found to be invalid accusations and therefore were not put into operation. 11,494 accusations, meaning nearly half of the total, were found valid and 5,987 unique URL addresses were put into investigation based on these accusations.
56% of the accusations (6,411) were based on “obscenity” reasons. Adding 10.7 % (1,234) “prostitution” and 11,6 % (1.335) “Child Sexual Abuse” accusations to this number, a 78.1 % (8,980) total of the all accusations were based on sexual content reasons.
11.4 % of the accusations (1,309) were based on “Crimes Committed Against Ataturk” which was also the case in YouTube ban.
Report is also giving some interesting details. Some strange suicides were committed by teenagers 5 or 6 years ago and at those years press had raised some questions whether Internet had been inducing suicides or not. 2.2 % of the accusations (257) were based on this reason.
Meanwhile, 1.1 % (79) of the accusations was based on the facilitation of the use of narcotics and exhilarants, and the delivery of health treating substances via Web sites.
And finally accusations based on gambling and illegal betting composes 6.2 % (711).
Courts Have Decided 241 Access Restrictions in 8 Months
Now let’s have a look at the transactions made based on these accusations. After hearing 11,494 accusations, 853 access restriction transactions were taken between 23 November 2007 and 18 August 2008. Notice that this number is not representing the banned site number, but the transaction count. For example YouTube was banned for 16 times.
28 % (241) of the access restriction decisions were taken by court orders and 72 % (612) were taken by Telecommunication Contact Directorship as ex-officio decision. It is also reported that 40 access restriction decisions were taken back and 25 sites changed their content after being warned. It is noted that a total of 158 Web sites were warned for their contents which were against “Crimes Committed against Ataturk” law and that related Web sites changed their content before being subjected to a restriction.
54 % of the access restrictions decided by the court were not subjected to Act 5651. When the remaining 46 % investigated, it is seen decisions were mainly grounded on the following 2 reasons: Crimes Committed against Ataturk (20 % with 48 cases), and sexual contents like pornography, prostitution child sexual abuse (18 % with 43 cases). Court decisions made upon violation of Crimes Committed against Ataturk law were mostly held against YouTube. These two reasons formed 38 % of the access restriction decisions taken by court.
When the access restrictions decided by courts are investigated, it is also found that 7% of the files which were subject to Act 5651 were based on gambling and illegal betting. 1% was banned because of illegal drug delivery. It is also interesting that there were no access restrictions decided by court based on “inducement to suicide” reason.
98 % of Telecommunication Contact Directorship’s bans were decided upon Child Pornography, Obscenity and Gambling
612 access restrictions decisions were taken by TIB within response to 11,494 accusations. That means 5% of the accusations were found reasonable. 600 of these restrictions (nearly 98%) were decided on “Child Sexual Abuse”, “Obscenity” and “Gambling” reasons. To be more accurate, 47.2% (289 sites) were restricted for Child Sexual Abuse, and 38.7% (236 sites) were restricted for Obscenity.
In contrast, access restrictions based on Crimes Committed against Ataturk were found to be at a negligible level (just 0.3% with 2 sites) and there were no site restrictions based on “Facilitation of the Use of Narcotics and Exhilarants”. There was just one site restriction decision taken upon “inducement to suicide” reason.
Remaining 9 access restriction decisions taken by TIB were due to “Prostitution”.
Child Pornography and Gambling Accusations Were Evaluated the Most
The report is also clearly pointing out to another issue : accusation/restriction decision rates. While 236 (out of 6,411accusation meaning 3.7%) decisions were taken based on obscenity accusations, 289 (out of 1,335 meaning 21.6%) decision were taken upon child sexual abuse accusations. Restriction/accusation rate for gambling accusations were found to be 10.5% (75 out of 711).
TBD and TID Appeals against Act 5651
When this report is examined thoroughly, it can be easily seen that site access restrictions were nearly at the same level before and after the relevant Act (Act 5651 regulating the Internet Broadcastings and Fighting against Crimes Committed through Internet) was issued.
153 Web site access restriction decisions were taken by courts in 2005 based upon the accusations of music producer foundations, which were claiming their intellectual property rights had been violated. These restrictions continued in 2006 and adding the access restrictions due to child pornography, a total of 886 sites were banned in 2006. The restricted site number was 549 in 2007 and by the first 8 months of 2008 this number reached 853.
As it was prepared in a rush and no NGO’s (non-governmental organization) were included in the preparation process, Act 5651 has been raising a lot of discussions for two years. However, the release of this report should be considered as a positive approach taken by Telecommunications Contact Directorship.
This process number is also showing the cumulative claims which are coming from 2000s. As Independent Internet Volunteers, which is established after Abant Workshop in last july, we are following the blocking process carefully abd closely.
In conclusion, it is important to note that Informatics Associations of Turkey (TBD) and another association (Tm Internet Dernei – TID) have appealed against three different regulations of Act 5651. Decisions regarding these appeals will be given in following days. Both associations believe that Act 5651 is contrary to the “communication freedom” stated in Constitution and therefore the court will bring the issue to Constitutional Court.