Jan 24, 2015 | ERDOĞAN

Erdoğan: B Is For Blocking

It's a well publicized fact that Erdogan's vision of (neo-Ottoman) Turkey does not include a freewheeling internet, the sort where people actually post what they think. He has said so bluntly in numerous occasions as well as attempted to gag it, albeit selectively, as often. Now, finally his planning something more comprehensive and convenient.

 

Social media platforms allow criticism and dissent, from opinion pieces to leaked wiretaps, to be heard and disseminated and for an autocrat's point of view this is unacceptable. Their subjugation is therefore a critical part of the regime's strategy of shaping public opinion (they still need to be voted in every now and then) which of course also includes media censorship. The latter is going pretty well considering the record breaking number of jailed journalists and the numerous issues the media is "banned" from reporting due to national security or some equivalent trope.

 

Erdogan's abhorrence for internet in particular goes way back. As Prime Minister he had vociferously called for the ban most prominent social media ("This entity called Twitter, this YouTube, this Facebook " to quote him), albeit with mixed success. He did manage to block YouTube on several occasions, lasting from a few weeks to 2 years (albeit the block could be circumvented) and Twitter (after he had promised to "eradicate" it) but only for mere weeks.

 

The threats to ban any of those internet platforms have kept on coming louder especially after Erdogan's pseudo-democratic transition to the Presidency and have expanded to include even Instagram.

 

His main stumbling block so far has been the existing legislation as applied by the judiciary, and especially the Constitutional Court. This is no accident as this Court has so far escaped the corrosive tentacles of the government in contrast with lower courts that have been slowly succumbing to its sway as they are being staffed with loyalists. Undoubtedly, the Court's turn to be "tamed" will also come up sometime soon.

 

If plan A to silence the internet voices then is to tamper with the judiciary, plan B then is to refashion the legislation. A proposed bill going through parliament gives the power to all ministries to block or remove content from any site they dim causes some kind of offence or poses some kind of danger, crucially, without a court order thusly speeding up the implementation considerably, from days to just hours. So there you have it, instant, unilateral, à la carte internet blocking.

 

Actually, this is the second attempt to enable the authorities to do so. The first time a similar law was passed last year, it was eventually annulled by, you guessed it, the Constitutional Court.

 

UPDATE: The website blocking enabling bill finally passed by parliament on the 19th of March. Calls to Erdogan to veto it are as likely to be acted upon as are calls for him to be more low-key.