Turkish citizens have a hard time accessing certain areas of the internet. Ever since Law No 5651 was passed in 2007, aimed to regulate the internet, Turks have found ever-fewer choices when it comes to browsing.
Initially, Turkey’s internet filtration system aimed to block any site that offered a “sufficient suspicion” of involvement in criminal activity. Among the crimes listed were child pornography, prostitution, insults against Atatürk (the country’s first president), and all online gambling sites in Turkey.
The list of blocked sites grew in May of 2008 when the popular video sharing site YouTube was officially banned. Due to a series of videos which were deemed insulting to Atatürk, the entire service was blocked.
Now, Turkish internet users find another group of sites blocked. Sometime last month, many of Google’s online services, including Google Maps and Google Analytics, simply stopped working. No warning was given, and no explanation for the blocks was provided. This incident highlights the fact that nobody is quite sure what government organization is responsible for deciding what sites get blocked – it remains somewhat of a mystery.
The situation is made even stranger when top government officials like Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan admit to finding ways around the blocks. Erdogan at one point even encouraged Turkish internet users to do the same.
It is estimated that there are somewhere around 4,000 websites that are blocked in Turkey, making the country’s internet censorship among the heaviest in the world.
While it is not likely that sites offering internet gambling in Turkey will be removed from the blacklist anytime soon, many business owners are fighting to get Google services back. Some say the issue revolves around tax, and around problems with Google’s local registration as a legal company in Turkey. Whatever the source of the problem, Google services have been blocked for nearly a month now, and no solution is in sight.