Google new target of Turkish censors
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 6/4/2010 12:00:00 AM | ÖZGÜR ÖĞRET
Turkey's web users again bear the brunt of heavy-handed censorship as the Telecommunications Commication Presidency indefinitely shuts off access to several Google services, including 'Google Docs.' The move follows the banning of the popular video-sharing website YouTube for alleged insults against Turkish Republic founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Translation and document-sharing tools are among the Google sites recently barred in Turkey, which has maintained a widely unpopular two-year ban on YouTube for perceived insults against the country’s founder.
Turkey’s Telecommunications Communication Presidency, or TİB, released an official statement Friday saying it had blocked access to some Google IP addresses “because of legal reasons.”
Internet users in the country have recently complained about difficulties in accessing docs.google.com, translate.google.com, books.google.com, google-analytics.com and tools.google.com.
According to the TİB statement, some Google applications may be completely inaccessible or, at the very least, take a long time to load, a move that may affect websites, portals and even the performance of individual computers.
“Leaving the legal status aside, first of all, they have victimized us,” lawyer Mehmet Ali Köksal said when asked to explain the vague statement from the TİB, adding that an Information Technology Law Congress, in which TİB representatives are expected to participate, will be held in İzmir between Wednesday and Friday.
“We have created a Google document [page] and were running our operations from there; now we cannot communicate either,” he said.
Köksal said the TİB’s act does not punish Google but only individuals, adding that the directorate’s bans are akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
“They have the court decision to ban Google sites, which is very wrong but the court has decided [so],” he said. “There are also some controversial decisions on banning YouTube; absurd things like banning it while it is already banned.”
Access to YouTube has been banned by Turkish authorities since May 5, 2008, because of videos deemed offensive to Turkish Republic founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
Because Google owns YouTube, the sites’ Domain Name Systems are the same. When a user types a domain name into the address bar of a browser, the DNS directs the browser to the site’s actual address, or IP number. Internet service providers in Turkey, however, redirect browsers when users attempt to access a banned site such as YouTube; instead of the site they wanted, they get a message saying “Access to this site is banned by court order.”
To avoid such controls, many users change their DNS settings, allowing them to bypass Turkish Internet service providers.
“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.’”
Many people have criticized the YouTube ban, arguing that it is illogical to ban the whole site for a single video, Köksal said, adding that authorities are now attempting to ban Google services that are not even the target of court orders.
“The content providers sometimes change their DNSs. It is a wrong act to bar other services of Google because of the changed DNS,” he said. “This is like shutting down a printing district when the aim is shutting down one newspaper.”