ISTANBUL (The Register)–Turkey’s web users again bear the brunt of heavy-handed censorship as the Telecommunications Presidency (TIB) has banned multiple Google services, according to reports, including Google Translate, Google Docs, and Google Books.
According to the International Business Times, the TIB released a statement last Thursday saying said it had banned many Google IP addresses because of “legal reasons.”But it did not elaborate those reasons. The statement said that some addresses are completely inaccessible while others are merely slow to load. Reports claim problems with Google AppEngine, FeedBurner, AdWords, and Analytics as well as Google Translate, Google Docs, and Google Books. Apparently, the ban began on June 4.
But Google has said it believes these services were banned accidentally and that it’s working with the Turkish government to solve the problem. “We have received reports that some Google applications are unable to be accessed in Turkey,” reads a statement from the company. “The difficulty accessing some Google services in Turkey appears to be linked to the ongoing ban on YouTube. We are working to get our services back up as soon as possible.”
Turkish authorities have continuously blocked access to YouTube since May 2008, after users uploaded videos that insulted the Turkish republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. And the government previously banned the video-sharing site on at least three other occasions.
Apparently, the first ban, in 2007, was a response to a parody news broadcast in which Greek football fans taunted the Turks by saying: “Today’s news; Kemal Ataturk was gay!” Under Turkish law–Law 5651–the courts can shut down any website that defames Ataturk or incites suicide, pedophilia, drug usage, obscenity, or prostitution.
The original video was taken down, but prosecutors have since objected to countless other videos insulting Ataturk.
Whether accidental or not, free-press outfit Reporters Without Boarders condemned Turkish authorities for extending the ban beyond YouTube, as it has long criticized the YouTube ban. “It is time the Turkish authorities demonstrated their commitment to free expression by putting an end to the censorship that affects thousands of websites in Turkey and by overhauling Law 5651 on the Internet, which allows this sort of mass blocking of sites,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.
“The censorship of YouTube in particular seems to be an archaic form of control, one that prevents Turks from accessing Web 2.0’s potential… [this] trend has been accentuated by the current problems in accessing other services provided by Google, which are widely used by Turkish Internet users,” the statement added.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) estimates that about 3,700 websites are “blocked for arbitrary and political reasons” in Turkey, including foreign websites, sites aimed at the country’s Kurdish minority, and gay sites.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that Turkey’s communications minister has called on Google to register as a taxpayer in the country, saying this would hasten a move towards lifting the YouTube ban. “The company should open a representation,” Transport and Communications Minister Binali Yildirim said on Tuesday. “YouTube is a taxpayer in 20 countries, and we want them to do the same in Turkey.”
Google, in response, said it does not operate servers in Turkey, but will work with the government to resolve this issue. “Google complies with tax law in every country in which it operates,” reads another statement from the company. “We are currently in discussion with the Turkish authorities about this, and are confident we comply with Turkish law. We report profits in Turkey which are appropriate for the activities of our Turkish operations.”