A REFLECTION ON TURKEY’S CONTESTED INTERNET AND PUBLIC DEMAND FOR INTERNET FREEDOM

Turkish media expert Dr. Bilge Yesil reflects on findings from the newly released report “Benchmarking Demand: Turkey’s Contested Internet.” In her post, Dr. Yesil examines what the report’s results mean for researchers, policymakers, and internet freedom activists in Turkey. Click here to read the full report.

Do a quick online search on Internet policy in Turkey, and it’s very likely that you will see reports and news stories with “censorship fears,” “decline in online freedoms,” and “Internet crackdown” in the title. It is also likely that you will read about how Internet and free speech activists in Turkey are decrying the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government’s heavy-handed approach to online communications, and maybe you will even get the sense that the level of support for Internet freedoms is quite high among ordinary users. You will also come acrossnews stories that celebrate Turkish users’ expert circumvention of social media bans: “Battle-trained… users…quickly turned on VPN services that reroute access through other countries to conceal the point of access to a platform, effectively nullifying the [Twitter] blackout.”

I bring up these talking points because they shed light on our assumptions about Internet users in Turkey—that they are concerned about online restrictions, do support Internet freedoms, and easily bypass social media bans. But I have often wondered who these users are. What is their socio-economic background? Are they the tech-savvy youth? Are they in fact the “upper classes…the ones who can afford the technology”? What do users think about Internet restrictions? How much of a difference do socio-economic background, education level and political party affiliation make in their approval/disapproval of the government’s Internet policies? Are there users who perhaps are not concerned about Internet censorship at all (gasp!) and do think that social media threatens traditional values? If so, who are they?

The OSU/Koc/Annenberg survey offers valuable…

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Fragmented Internet: National Interest or Human Rights Violation?

//Fedor Smirnov, a participant in the 2015 Annenberg-Oxford Summer Institute and ICT practitioner in Russia, discusses internet fragmentation and privacy in Russia with key insights from AnOx speakers.

Fragmentation of the internet, triggered by Snowden’s revelations, is a key issue for internet governance researchers and practitioners alike. As Professor Milton L. Mueller argued during the 2015 Annenberg-Oxford Summer Institute, there are two types of fragmentation: unintentional technical incompatibility and intentional limitations of access, latter of which raises concerns in both academic and civil societies. Today’s internet is generally open, interoperable and unified, but governments across the world strive towards greater control of the net. Some threats to internet freedom are of technical nature (threats to Domain Name System, DNS), others political (internet censorship and blocking), and others still economic (breakdown peering and transit agreement) and legal (local privacy regimes). Over the past few years, Russia has taken many steps towards more fragmented internet access, particularly by introducing blacklists, requiring bloggers registration, and holding discussions about a “disconnected Runet’  (a scenario when .RU top level domain may be separated from the global DNS).

Russia is not the first country to implement data localization requirements. Along with countries like Vietnam, Brazil and India, Western democracies such as Germany, France, and Canada are heading towards a fragmented internet as well.[1] Russia’s tendency towards fragmentation resulted in the Russian Data Localization Law (242-FZ) that took effect September 1, 2015. The law, which pushes Russia further down a data localization trajectory, stipulates that digitalized personal data of Russian citizens  should be recorded, systematized, and stored using databases located within national territory. Websites that break the law will be added to a special register, which will enable Russian government-controlled communication regulator Roskomnadzor to block those who are non-compliant.

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The Internet Policymaking Landscape in Pakistan

// Usama Khilji, a research associate at Bolo Bhi, discusses Bolo Bhi’s recent study analyzing internet policymaking in Pakistan which makes suggestions for crafting ideal internet policy. Click here to learn more about Bolo Bhi.

Internet policymaking in Pakistan has been an uphill task for all stakeholders involved, a process whereby the government justifies proposals for greater control over internet activity with language about security and counter-terrorism while other stakeholders, especially civil society and technology-related businesses, mobilize campaigns to resist such attempts. Through our research on the internet policymaking landscape in Pakistan,  our team at Bolo Bhi  has interviewed key internet policymaking stakeholders to identify the main drivers of Pakistan’s incoherent internet policy: these issues include lack of expertise on technology related matters in the government, a lack of transparency in policymaking processes, ad hoc censorship policies, and failure to have a multi-stakeholder forum where input from stakeholders is taken for the laws and policies under consideration.

The near three-year YouTube ban in Pakistan epitomizes this tense relationship and the push and pull between government, civil society, the private sector, and other actors. The website was banned to appease violent protestors after a video that was deemed blasphemous appeared on YouTube in September 2012 The lifting of the ban has become an ego tussle between Google and the Pakistani government; with academia and civil society criticizing the restriction of access to the website.

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