Why censorship is easy in Turkey
Censorship is easy in Turkey because one is sure to get away with it. No one in the history of this country has ever paid a price for imposing censorship. People raised their voices briefly, but that’s it.
These days people raise their voices over Twitter and think that it is enough. The Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTÜK) is imposing unreasonable fines on TV stations because the highly esteemed members of RTÜK decided that sexy dancing is an act of evil. They issued a fine of a staggering 400,000 Turkish Liras because of a teaser of a Turkish version of “Glee.” According to RTÜK, our children must be protected from watching young people dancing samba. I have read thousands of Twitter and Facebook messages, but not one organized protest was initiated.
Just a few weeks ago, the biggest censorship project ever planned silently came into action disguised as a “filter” to save our children from harmful Internet content. It was later discovered that the filter blocked not only porn sites but Darwinian sites as well, together with many opposition sites. No one organized a protest.
The recent events have reminded me of a famous quotation attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller: “First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak out because I was Protestant. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.” Unfortunately it seems to me that we have not learned from the past.
The situation is totally different in the United States. While we are fighting our private battles with the legislators over social media, actors in the U.S. work together and get results. The latest example came just a few days ago. There was an attempt to pass a bill just like the Turkish filter, namely the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA, H.R. 3261). As the sopablackout.org website explains it, is on the surface a bill that attempts to curb online piracy. Sadly, the proposed way it goes about doing this would devastate the online economy and the overall freedom of the web. It would particularly affect sites with heavy user-generated content. Sites like YouTube, Reddit and Twitter may cease to exist in their current forms if this bill is passed.
Immediately the websites mentioned above got together and organized a blackout on Jan. 18. As soon as the announcements came from thousands of smaller websites to join in, the legislators had to back down and the creator of the bill, Lamar Smith, agreed to change the wording. Obama has also announced he will not back the Internet censorship bill which has come under fire from organizations such as Wikipedia, Word Press and Mozilla. Meanwhile, the secretive organization of hackers known as Anonymous has declared war on any company that supports the bill.
As Turkish Internet users and technology firms, we must learn to collaborate to preserve our rights. So far acting alone and writing a Facebook post has not got us any victories, only decisive defeats.