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Turkey: Law on Internet Publications Amended

(Feb. 24, 2014) On February 6, 2014, the Grand National Assembly (GNA) of Turkey passed new amendments to Law No. 5651 on Regulation of Publications on the Internet and Combating Crimes Committed by Means of Such Publications (5651 sayili Internet Ortaminda Yapilan Yayinlarin Düzenlenmesi ve Bu Yayinlar Yoluyla Islenen Suçlarla Mücadele Edilmesi Hakkinda Kanun (May 4, 2007), GNA website).  The amendments to Law No. 5651 were approved by President Abdullah Gul and published in the Turkish Official Gazette, issue No. 28918 of February 19, 2014.  (Law No. 6518 of Feb. 6, 2014 [in Turkish] [the omnibus law that includes the amendments to Law No. 5651] , Turkish Official Gazette website.)

Law No. 5651 contains general and specific provisions on regulating broadcasting via the Internet and also organizes the tasks of the Presidency of Telecommunication and Communication (Telekomünikasyon Iletisim Baskanlig) (TIB).  Among other responsibilities, this body oversees publications issued on the Internet and takes action against violations of the law committed by these publications.  (About TIB: Information, TIB website, (last visited Feb. 19, 2014))

The key recent amendments to Law No. 5651 are highlighted below:

  • The amendments include a new article 6/A that requires Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to consolidate into a single association as the Association of Access Providers (Erisim Saglayicilari Birligi).  Membership in this Association will be compulsory and access providers who are not members of this Association will not be able to provide access services within Turkey. (Law No. 6518, art. 90.)
  • The amendments to article 5 also require hosting providers to store all data related to their hosting activities for up to two years and to make it available to the TIB upon request. Hosting providers are also obliged to take any required measures that are requested by the TIB. (Id. art. 88.)
  • Under amendments included in a new article 9/A, the TIB has the power to block access to content (i.e., to URLs) without prior judicial review, based on a complaint that a posting violates an individual’s right of privacy. Thus, according to this new provision, individuals and legal entities may directly apply to the TIB to block access to certain Internet content, by claiming that their privacy rights have been violated through that content. Upon receipt of such a request, the TIB will promptly notify the Association of its blocking decision and the ISPs must take the necessary measures to block this particular content within four hours of receipt of the TIB notification. (Id. art. 94.)

Individuals and legal entities that claim their privacy has been violated are required to apply to a court for judicial review within 24 hours after applying to the TIB. The judge is required to issue a decision on the request within 48 hours. Otherwise, the blocking order issued by the TCP will become void, and the blockage must be lifted. (Id.)

  • The new article 9/A(8) allows the TIB to issue a blocking order ex officio. The TIB can block the content right away if any possible delay would result in adverse consequences for the protection of the right of privacy. In such cases, objections to the blocking order can be made directly to the court. (Id.)

These amendments have raised many concerns abroad as well. The Council of Europe announced that the new Turkish restrictions on Internet use are under examination by Council of Europe experts. (Turkey: Experts Examine New Internet Restrictions, Human Rights Europe website (Feb. 10, 2014).) EU officials have also raised questions about the amendments by the Turkish Parliament, stating that new amendments introduce several restrictions on freedom of expression. (Turkey Internet Law Raises ‘Serious Concerns’:EU,EU BUSINESS (Feb. 6, 2014).) The United Nations Human Rights Office has expressed its concern about the amendments that allow the blocking of websites without the need to seek a court order and that penalize ISPs if they fail to cooperate. (Turkey’s New Law on Internet Curbs Draws Concern from UN Rights Office, UN NEWS CENTRE (Feb. 14, 1014).)

In addition, the adoption of the amendments has received a lot of attention in the domestic and foreign press. (See, e.g, Turkish Government Defends Internet Bill with Bilingual Memo, HURRIYET DAILY NEWS (Feb. 13, 2014); Constanze Letsch, Turkey Pushes Through New Raft of ‘Draconian’ Internet Restrictions, THE GUARDIAN (Feb. 6, 2014); Turkey Passes Law Tightening Control of Internet, BBC NEWS (Feb. 5, 2014); & Nick Tattersall, Turkey’s Gul Approves Law Tightening Internet Controls,REUTERS (Feb. 18, 2014).)

After taking the broad range of concerns into account, Turkey’s Minister of Transport, Maritime Affairs, and Communication, Lutfi Elvan, recently announced that two disputed articles of Law No. 5651 would be amended again. Under the planned changes, Internet traffic data would be provided to the authorities only by a court order (see above, art. 5), and a blocking order issued by the TIB ex officio on privacy violation grounds would have to be presented to a court for judicial review within 24 hours by the TIB itself (see above, art. 9/A-(8) ). (Bakan Elvan Internet Yasasiyla Ilgili Bilgi Verdi [Minister Elvan Gave Information About the Internet Law] (Feb. 18, 2014), Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communication official website [click on picture to view news item]; see also Turkey’s Internet Law in Line with Developed Countries, Justice and Development Party official website (last visited Feb. 19, 2014).)

Prepared by a Law Library Intern, under the supervision of Wendy Zeldin, Senior Legal Research Analyst.