The İstanbul-based Freedom of Expression Association (İFÖD) released the English version of its “Assessment Report on Blocked Websites, News Articles and Social Media Content From Turkey” on July 19.
Prepared by Assoc. Prof. Yaman Akdeniz from the Faculty of Law of İstanbul Bilgi University and Expert Researcher Ozan Güven, the Turkish version of the report was released on July 2, 2019.
Published by the İFÖD in collaboration with the EngelliWeb (Blocked Web) initiative, the report shows that access to 54 thousand 903 websites, 3 thousand 306 of which were news addresses, was blocked in 2018.
As indicated in its introduction, the report includes “statistical information both for the year of 2018 and also provides an overview for the 2007-2018 period on blocked websites, news articles and social media content.”
Over 245 thousand websites blocked till 2018
The report shows that prior to 2018, access to a total of 190 thousand 922 domain names and websites were blocked in Turkey.
While 177 thousand 515 of these websites were blocked by the former Telecommunications Communication Presidency (TIB), and later by the Head of Information Technologies and Communication Board (BTK), 9 thousand 227 domain names were blocked by the penal judgeships of peace, public prosecutors’ offices and by courts.
In the year 2018, a further 54 thousand 903 domain names were blocked access to from Turkey. Taken together, by the end of last year, a total of 245 thousand 825 domain names were blocked from Turkey.
The number of blocked websites by the blocking authority between the years 2007 and 2018 is shown in the below table:
Referring to the access block imposed on Wikipedia, the report indicates, “The most outrageous blocking practice which continued to be enforced during 2018 was the total access blocking of the Wikipedia platform with the decision of the Ankara 1st Criminal Judgeship of Peace in April 2017.”
Statistics on blocked news articles in 2018
The report also shares URL-based statistical information about the blocked news articles in 2018. Accordingly, throughout last year, 3 thousand 306 news addresses were blocked in Turkey.
The report further underlines that those URL addresses were blocked by 618 separate orders issued by 159 separate penal judgeships of peace.
According to the data shared by the Association regarding the top twenty websites in terms of blocked news articles, it is seen that the daily Sözcü ranked first with 204 news articles in the category of the “most blocked news site in terms of news articles (URLs)” in 2018.
As it can be viewed in the below figure, Sözcü is followed by daily Cumhuriyet. While Sözcü removed 23, or 11 percent of the blocked URLs from its website, Cumhuriyet removed 22, or 11 percent of the blocked URLs:
Another category included in the report for 2018 is “removed and deleted news articles.” The below table shows that OdaTV news website came first when it came to removing articles after receiving blocking order. In other words, the website removed 98 percent of its news articles that were blocked. OdaTV is followed by T24 in that category.
The Association also indicates: “There are only two news site which has not removed any of the access-blocked news articles. Diken ranks first in this category with 55 blocked news articles, none of which was removed. NTV comes second, not removing any of its 33 blocked news articles.”
Turkey a leader in access block on social media
The report also refers to the biannual Transparency Reports published by Twitter since 2012. Accordingly, in 2018, one thousand 105 court orders and 12 thousand 897 removal demands were sent from Turkey to Twitter.
With these requests, 22 thousand 998 Twitter accounts were also demanded to be withheld or removed from the website.
While Twitter previously announced that it withheld or removed only 497 accounts and one thousand 819 tweets from Turkey, the Association indicates in its report, “Under the EngelliWeb Project, 532 Twitter accounts were determined to be blocked access from Turkey during 2018.”
It also shares the information that in comparison with other countries, Turkey ranked first when it comes to the number of court orders sent to Twitter, other removal demands, withheld or removed Twitter accounts and withheld or removed tweets in 2018.
About the Freedom of Expression Association and 2018 EngelliWeb Report
The Freedom of Expression Association (“IFÖD”) was established in August 2017. The Association focuses on the prevention and elimination of violations of the right to freedom of expression without any discrimination based on language, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, political affiliation and other grounds.
As a part of the activities of the Freedom of Expression Association, this report was prepared in collaboration with the EngelliWeb initiative within the scope of a project, funded by the Human Rights Programme of the Government of the Netherlands.
EngelliWeb was awarded the Honorary Freedom of Thought and Expression Award of the Turkish Publishers Association in 2015 and the BOBs – Best of Online Activism Turkish User Award of Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle in 2016.