New Internet law is ‘more than problematic,’ foreign diplomat says

New Internet law is ‘more than problematic,’ foreign diplomat says

Sevil Erkuş ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
New Internet law is ‘more than problematic,’ foreign diplomat says Recent legal changes allowing Turkey’s telecommunication authority to monitor web users and the sites they visit without a court order is “very worrying,” a foreign diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News on Sept. 11, adding that they had unofficially conveyed those concerns to the Turkish government.

The Ankara-based diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, stressed that they had yet to receive the official document, but if the reported details of the law are confirmed then “we are very concerned.”

“It would be going back to the version that was amended by former President Abdullah Gül this summer,” the diplomat said, adding that if Turkey’s Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) was able to track citizens’ use of the Internet without judicial permission, or keep and extract the information, it would be a "big cause for concern."

“Everyone could be subject to this interception from administrative bodies without a judicial order. Without a law that defines the conditions of storage, the limits of storage and the purpose of storage, it is more than problematic,” the diplomat added.

The TİB has been granted the authority to monitor Internet users and block websites and their content without court permission, according to a bill passed by Parliament late Sept. 10.

The bill allows the TİB head to block websites and content in order to “protect national security and public order, as well as to prevent crime.” The service provider will be required to shut down the website or remove the content within four hours, if the law is approved.

The government changed the Internet Law in early 2014 after a social media campaign targeted government members over corruption claims in December 2014. The voice recordings of a number of officials allegedly showing them accepting bribes, which included former Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, shook Turkey's news agenda, with the government responding by banning Twitter and YouTube in a bid to stem the leaks.

According to current regulations related to blocking websites, after issuing service providers with an initial order to block access to a site, the TİB must apply to a court within 24 hours to get a legal decision. The latter has 48 hours to respond to the request.

However, the recent changes allow for the TIB to store the data in-house and then to hand over the data to relevant institutions upon a court decision. “The process to present information on specific web traffic data to the court used to take at least a month, which caused a serious delay. By storing this information at the TIB, this process will be much quicker,” officials told daily Hürriyet.

The European Union and the United States have both severely criticized the Turkish government for increasing government control over the Internet, particularly after the blocks on Twitter and YouTube were imposed.