Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Darwin's Trouble with Internet Filters in Turkey

Censorship in Turkey is omnipresent. The country began the new year with the horrendous Uludere killings and the scandalous silence of the mainstream media about the incident (see GIT - North America's previous reports here, here, and here). The number of journalists laid off or jailed for writing critically about the government is rampant (97 journalists were in jail as of Tuesday, January 10).

But the censorship in Turkey is not only limited to political dissent and claims for democratization. After a two-year ban on Youtube, which was lifted in October 2011, the Council of Information Technology and Communications (BTK) recently introduced a new internet filtering system -'Child Profile'- that denies access to all internet sites related to theory of evolution and Charles Darwin. While the internet users can lift the ban by voting against it on the site, where the 'prohibition' message pops up, the question remains: why does BTK categorize the websites about the evolution theory harmful for children?

[Read Bianet's report on the merger of internet filtering and censorship in Turkey; Darwin's trouble in Turkey; a related report on Science Insider; and another piece on Green Prophet.]

This internet filtering system prompted fifteen academics from a variety of Turkish universities’ communication faculties to sign a declaration protesting the filter package which requires web users to choose one of two content-filtering packages. The scholars defined the filter as “arbitrary, state-run, centralized censorship” in their declaration yesterday in Ankara. Read more on Hurriyet Daily News. The declaration's full text in Turkish with additional signatories may be found on Alternatif Bilişim. The union of teachers and education workers in Turkey also made a press release condemning the continued efforts to exclude Darwin and his theories from school curricula.