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Ban on underwear and condom brand websites lifted after protests

(BIANET/IFEX) - 24 November 2011 - On the first day of internet filtering in Turkey, access was denied to many underwear and condom brand websites. After a storm of social media protest, most of the sites were removed from the filter.

The central internet filtering system of the Prime Ministry Telecommunications Association (BTK) came into effect on 22 November 2011. The regulation, commonly known as the "internet filter", was designed "to protect minors from harmful content on the internet." On the first day of its application, many websites for underwear and condom brands were inaccessible.

Official websites of underwear and condom brands are covered under the "Family and Children Profile" as one of the options of the "Secure Internet Service" provided by the BTK and, as such, access to these sites was denied.

The BTK announced its "General Decisions" in five articles, among them Article 3 relating to "obscene content", under which the official websites of Durex, Fiesta, Victoria's Secret and Calvin Klein apparently fell. Following a storm of social media protest, most of these sites were removed from the filter on 23 November.

The BTK's five general decisions regarding the Secure Internet Service are:

1. A declaration of compliance of website owners with the website criteria is essential for sites covered by the Secure Internet Service.

2. Websites hosting topics related to education, culture, arts, work, economy, banking and finance, careers, media, shopping, internet service, health, sports, music, games, etc. content and websites of official companies and organisations should be included in the Secure Internet Service.

3. Websites relating to gambling, suicide, insults against Atatürk, sexual abuse of children, facilitation of the use of narcotics and stimulant drugs, the supply of hazardous substances, prostitution, obscenity, racism, discrimination, hate, terrorism, containing images of violence and cruelty, martial arts involving blood and violence, animal fights, fraud, malicious software, etc. should not be included in the Secure Internet Service.

4. In the scope of the Secure Internet Service, websites relating to aspects of Article 3, containing implicit advertisement and advertisement affecting the subconscious and containing incentives should be published on websites without any other content.

5. The opinions of expert organizations and establishments should be fully reflected regarding topics like copyright, hazardous substances, inventory of digital games and tobacco and alcohol sales.

The BTK did not issue a list of websites barred by the filtering system.

BTK officials said, "We did not issue a list but there are certain criteria. Some problems may occur during the first days of the Secure Internet application since obscenity is such a broad concept."

According to the EngelliWeb ("obstructed web") site, there was an access restriction on 15.500 users even before the ban. Even though access to these sites is not denied directly, EngelliWeb started to identify and list the sites included under the filter of the family profile.

The filtering system was initially expected to come into force on 22 August, but was delayed to 22 November due to massive public criticism.
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