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Government agency wants to install filtering software on every computer

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns a plan by the Information Technologies Board (BTK), an offshoot of the prime minister's office, to force the Turkish public to submit to content filtering in order to gain access to the Internet.

Under new regulations announced by the BTK on 22 February 2011 and due to take effect on 22 August, Internet users will have to choose between one of four Internet filtering options: family, children, domestic or standard. One of these filters will have to be installed on every computer for it to have online access. The list of websites blocked by each filter is classified.

"The BTK is not fooling anyone when it claims to be rendering a service to Internet users by giving them a choice between a lot of restrictions and fewer restrictions," Reporters Without Borders said. "This measure is a complete violation of both the European Convention on Human Right and Turkey's own constitution. Everyone should be guaranteed unrestricted access to the Internet."

Shielding children from certain kinds of online content is perfectly legitimate but parents should be able to choose whether or not they install a filter on a computer, and should be able to turn it off when they want. Such a tool should under no circumstances be imposed on Internet users.

This is yet another case of Turkish Internet users having to submit to an arbitrary decision by one of the many government agencies that regulate the Internet.

Reporters Without Borders urges the BTK to follow the example set by the High Council for Telecommunications (TIB), which finally abandoned its plan to introduce keyword filtering. And it urges all the other entities that control telecommunications to stop trying to outdo each other with censorship measures that just undermine their credibility in the public eye.

Lawyers representing the Turkish human rights website http:///www.Bianet.org have asked the Council of State to overturn the measure. Access to Bianet was blocked in many Internet cafés in June 2007 by filtering software using a blacklist compiled by government security officials. The blocking was finally lifted after Bianet approached the company that made the software.

"But we don't want to experience the same problem again as a result of new measures targeting independent, alternative or free initiatives," Bianet editor in chief Erol Önderoglu said.

Turkey is on the list of "countries under surveillance" in the latest version of the "Enemies of the Internet" report that Reporters Without Borders released on 11 March. More than 7,000 websites are currently blocked in Turkey, in most cases without reference to any court.

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