Twitter wars continue in Ankara

Twitter wars continue in Ankara

What is our elites’ problem with the Internet? Let me tell you the brief answer: They simply don’t know what it is for. Of course, they individually use I-pads, I-phones, surf the Internet and tweet a lot, but they lack the notion for its greater role. They have no idea how it is changing people’s lives and the economy, from small enterprises to international corporations. No idea at all. That, I think is the basis of the Twitter ban. The ban put Turkey second to North Korea in Internet freedom. What a reputation!

Fortunately, the Constitutional Court was brave enough to end the farce. Why does it need courage to do what your legal framework tells you to do? Well, just look at the verbal war against the court these days. The Twitter Wars are not over. They continue with every verbal salvo against the Constitutional Court of the country. We are merely at a new episode of the saga – war against all remaining and rather lousy checks and balances, this time. Unnerving? Yes. Interesting? Very much so. I find the arguments rather hilarious. 

So the Twitter ban is no more in Turkey. The court decision repealing it was made possible by the 2010 referendum, in which Erdoğan won around 58% of the vote. There, the right to apply to the court individually was added to the Turkish Constitution. The court’s latest Twitter decision resulted from three such individual appeals. Now the court has become a target by accepting appeals with no legal history. It devised its own procedure for individual appeals. We now see that the constitutional change of the 2010 referendum turned the court into a kind of a gatekeeper of freedoms. It is not really the court of last appeals for correcting legal wrongs - we have the High Court of Appeals for that - but sort of a defender of the faith; a protector of the idea of individual freedom. Not bad.  It means that we now have a court that interprets the meaning behind words in Ankara. That is a good thing. The government’s argument against the decision looks procedural, failing to address the ideas behind it.

Don’t look at the meaning between the lines, they want to say. It is all about politics. With the 2010 amendment, the Court has become a stronger part of checks and balances. That unnerves the political elite now, but it is a creature of their own making.

I noted that the Turkish political elite do not understand the Internet. Let me tell you what I see. There are 89 laws in Turkey in which the word “Internet” can be found, but not a single one has a clear conception of what the thing is about. Rather, our system is using the word in three different meanings: first, the Internet as a notice board: something to place exam scores and tender results on.

Second, it is a kind of post office. The Internet is a tool through which to communicate decisions, like accepting tender applications. Third, it is considered a device for crime. That we definitely do not like. Even in this regard, laws handle the Internet as if it was a newspaper with potentially harmful content.

Consider it for a moment: If there is something damaging to your personality, you can put up a notice there the next day to explain yourself. Just think about doing that on the Internet! What we have here is a legal framework of the last century applied to the problems of this new one. Our only law defining the Internet, that is Number 5651, is named “the Law on Crimes Committed through the Internet.” It is all about fighting against abuse on the Internet; definitely not about developing the Internet economy or empowering individuals. Turkey is one of the few countries with no personal data protection legislation. That is a shame, if you ask me. We have a great number of young people with considerable potential, but our elite have no idea how to govern this new space.