Facebook Examining Options Ahead of Possible Turkish Ban

ISTANBUL (Hurriyet)–Facebook’s policy team is working on various scenarios for the site in Turkey ahead of an order from one of the country’s courts that could ban access to the popular social networking hub, a company official said Monday.

“Our policy guys are working on it,” Trevor Johnson, Facebook’s Strategic and Planning Department chair responsible for Europe, Middle East and Africa, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review after a Monday speech during the two-day Interactive Marketing Summit, which is being hosted by MedyaNet in Istanbul.

Johnson said he was aware of the recent public debates in Turkey on a possible court decision to ban access to the website after Turkey’s largest opposition party’s leader petitioned a court to remove offensive content from a page at the beginning of October.

The chair, however, said he could not give detailed information on whether it was technically possible to remove only some content considered “offensive” by the Turkish legislation, adding that the policy team was still working on the case.

He also said he did not know whether there was a deadline for the team to emerge with a solution to the issue.

Lawyers for Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, filed a criminal complaint two weeks ago after a Facebook group claiming that the opposition leader was a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

CHP officials told the Daily News in an Oct. 7 interview that the party had not asked for Facebook to be banned altogether, but only that the offensive content to be removed.

Kılıçdaroğlu is not the first person to file a case against content on Facebook. Turkish Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım said in a press conference two weeks ago that 30 over judicial decisions had been issued to ban the site in Turkey.

The orders have not yet been implemented Yıldırım said, adding that Facebook had also not made any appeals to a higher court on the issue.

The minister, however, warned that the site could soon be banned if one of the judicial rulings is put into effect.

If the court hearing the Kılıçdaroğlu case does decide to ban the website, more than 22.5 million Facebook users in Turkey would lose access to their accounts.

Access to other popular websites such as the video-sharing portal YouTube has been banned since a court order in 2007. Civil society organizations have continuously organized protests against Law no. 5651, under which access to websites is banned.

Many legal experts believe the law violates fundamental and constitutional rights to inform people and be informed.

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