A Turkish court in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir has banned Google’s popular blogging platform Blogger in response to a complaint by satellite television provider Digiturk, that Blogger users had illegally posted videos of Turkish Super League matches that are owned by Digiturk’s Lig TV.
The ban, widely viewed as disproportionate, has prompted outrage among Turkey’s 600,000 bloggers and 18 million Internet users and focused attention on Turkey’s restrictive Internet laws. Millions of Turkish bloggers and blog readers have been unable to access Blogger since the ban was imposed on March 1. Critics of the ban have created groups on Facebook and Twitter that are rapidly gaining popularity. They assert that the ban amounts to censorship.
“This is a disproportionate response by the court and undoubtedly has a huge impact on all law-abiding citizens,” cyber-rights activist and Bilgi University law professor Yaman Akdeniz told Turkey’s Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. Akdeniz acknowledged that Digiturk had a legitimate concern but argues that banning a website did not provide a solution.
Turkish Media Association Secretary General Deniz Ergürel compared the ban to shutting down telephone services because two people used a phone to discuss committing a crime. “Even cursing, threatening or cheating over the phone is considered a crime, but this does not imply access to phones all over the country would be banned if there is a case against them,” Ergürel said.
In defense of its complaint, Digiturk said that its repeated warnings to not use copyrighted material had been ignored. Digiturk said it had paid $321 million for the exclusive right to broadcast Super League matches. “Thus, we applied to court to ban these websites, and the court decided to ban access to them, after it was proved that although all legal procedures were conducted, the violations were not stopped,” Digiturk said in a statement.
James M. Dorsey is a senior research associate at The National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog