As the growth of websites and free discourse has grown–so too has government crackdowns, blacklists, and all other forms of internet censorship. Turkey has been a hotspot for censorship since 2014, banning access to over 245,825 websites. Only 11,879 of these blocked websites have been blocked through the regular court process. All the other websites have mostly been the result of government strong arming without proper legislative process.
In 2018 alone, 54,903 URLs were banned for Turkey citizens, with only 1,196 of these decisions appearing in courts. And according to EngelliWeb, a nongovernmental organization monitoring internet censorship in Turkey, 3,306 of the blocked posts in 2018 were news related. Most countries around the world censoring content online often claim the reason for doing so is to protect their people, but in a large majority of cases, the singular reason is for the current government party to retain power and stifle criticism proliferated in the news. We’ve seen examples of this in the Hong Kong riots where pictures of the riots were blocked in China. In Turkey, things don’t look any better.
Among the most censored postings is the Sözcü daily, with 204 banned news articles–followed by the Cumhruiyet daily with 196 censored postings–and the Hurriyet daily with 140 censored postings. While the blocked and banned articles were sometimes not grounds for removal, most of the websites with censored postings have deleted almost all of the URLs that got flagged–perhaps due to worries of government prosecution.
Censorship has been rife in Turkey since February 2014, immediately after a government corruption scandal was exposed on the internet. The Turkish government acquired power to censor events like this and even the ability to censor posts without censoring entire websites–which is the sneakiest form of censorship.
We’ve seen this form of censorship even in social media, where platforms grow so powerful they can easily influence public opinion by censoring specific users. In this case however, the Turkish government looks to be the gatekeeper over the entire Turkish internet. So unlike reading news on websites Facebook or Reddit where users can simply go somewhere else, Turkish citizens don’t have a second choice and are quickly losing the ability to read factual news.