Google Sites Blocked By Turkish Government

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The Turkish communications regulator TIB has banned many of Google’s sites and services due to “legal reasons”

The Turkish government has reportedly imposed a ban on Internet search engine Google and many of its services – including Google Docs, Books and Analytics.

In an official statement, the Turkish Telecommunications Presidency (TIB) – which regulates communications in the country – confirmed the that it had blocked access to many Google IP addresses, citing “legal reasons”. However, it gave no further explanation of these reasons, nor did it confirm whether the ban is temporary or permanent.

“The difficulties in accessing some Google services in Turkey appears to be linked to the ongoing ban on YouTube,” one Google Employee wrote on the Google Docs help forum. “We are working to get these services back up as soon as possible.”

An extension of the YouTube ban?

YouTube was blocked by a court order in Turkey back in 2007, after video clips were posted that, prosecutors said, insulted the memory of the nation’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Insult to Turkey and criticism of the nation is a criminal offence under Turkish law.

“Five or six years ago, very few countries controlled the Internet,” Julien Pain of Reporters Without Borders told BBC News at the time. “Very few dictators understood that they had to control the web as they did traditional media. Unfortunately, now, web censorship is spreading around the world.”

Many people criticised the YouTube ban, arguing that it is illogical to ban the whole site for a single video. However, now the authorities seem to be doing the same thing with Google.

Mehmet Ali Köksal, lawyer and owner of Koksal General Law Office in Turkey, has been quoted by Islamic news and commentary site Un:dhimmi, claiming that the TIB’s act does not punish Google, only individuals.

Köksal explains that, because Google owns YouTube, the sites’ Domain Name Systems (DNS) are the same. Many Internet users in Turkey had discovered that, by changing their DNS settings, they were able to bypass Turkish Internet service providers and gain access to the banned site.

“I guess they are trying to bar the access to those DNS providers,” said Köksal. “The explanation they made contradicts itself somewhat. They say, ‘There is a court order, so we are turning the functioning of the Internet in Turkey upside down a little.’ ”

Worldwide censorship

Back in March, Google stopped censoring its search results in China, following a cyber attack in which the Gmail accounts of dozens of human rights activists were accessed.

“We want as many people in the world as possible to have access to our services, including users in mainland China, yet the Chinese government has been crystal clear throughout our discussions that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement,” wrote Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond in a blog post.

Then in April, Google published a list detailing the number of requests made by government agencies around the world for customer data and removal of content in the second half of 2009. The list did not include figures for China, which regards such information as a state secret. Among the other nations, Brazil appeared to be the most meddlesome government, followed by Germany, India and the US.

“The vast majority of these requests are valid and the information needed is for legitimate criminal investigations,” said David Drummond, senior vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer at Google. “However, data about these activities historically has not been broadly available. We believe that greater transparency will lead to less censorship.”

Google is not the only company to have problems with censorship. Only last month the Pakistani government blocked Facebook over what it described as “sacrilegious” content – a Facebook group posting images of the prophet Muhammad, which are currently forbidden in many strands of Islam. The government also temporarily blocked in-country access to YouTube for a few hours on May 20, accusing both websites of sacrilege.

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