Turkish Court Ends Latest YouTube Ban

The Guardian reports that a Turkish court has lifted the ban on YouTube in that country, imposed by an Ankara court in May 2008 after it determined that certain videos posted on the popular video-sharing site insulted Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. Turkey has two notable laws restricting freedom of speech on the Internet -- (1) Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which criminalizes the denigration of Turkishness, the Republic, and the foundation and institutions of the state; and (2) Internet Publication Law No. 5651, which regulates online content and includes a prohibition on insulting the memory of Ataturk (additional information on 5651).  

Turkish authorities have used these laws aggressively in recent years, triggering a good deal of international attention and criticism.  As I've blogged about before (here, here), a court ordered WordPress blocked in its entirety last year due to an individual complaint about one blogger's allegedly defamatory postings. More recently, bloggers inside Turkey organized an online protest against Web censorship, in which they voluntarily shut down their own blogs, posting notices like "The access to this web site is prevented by its owner’s free will" (TechCrunch's translation), riffing off notices posted by ISPs noting site blockage due to court order. As Erick Schonfeld TechCrunch explained in a post in mid-August, "[t]he point is to show Turkish Web surfers what the Internet would look like if the censorship continues unabated."

Although The Guardian article suggests a link, it's hard to say whether there is any relationship between the protest and the court's recent decision to end the ban. According to one tally, 441 sites participated in the protest, and the attention may have caused authorities to reconsider their position on YouTube.  But perhaps YouTube met some critical demand of the Turkish government, or maybe there was a technical legal reason. Who knows?  If anyone has any insights, please add your thoughts in the comments.


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