Monday, October 27, 2008

Censorship In Turkey: Because We Just Don't Have Enough Of It There

That's right. Not just me, but all of Blogspot. At first, the rumour was that Adnan Oktar had gone whining to the courts again that someone wasn't being very nice to him, but it later turned out that it was Digitürk (a Turkish cable provider) that brought the case to the court. I guess some people were posting links to illegal streams of soccer games that Digitürk had the rights to. Rather than punish those bad linkers, or the illegal sources themselves, a court in Diyarbakır ordered the whole of Blogspot blocked. All of it. That's millions of blogs. I'm starting to think someone doesn't quite get how this whole new-fangled Internet thing works.

Like everyone in Turkey hasn't already figured out a number of ways to get around these bans. The Wordpress ban was lifted a few months back, but Youtube continues to be blocked because of a few videos teasing Ataturk, and Adnan Oktar (aka Harun Yahya) also managed to get Richard Dawkins's (a respected biologist and noted atheist) website banned because Dawkins said of Oktar's book, "I am at a loss to reconcile the expensive and glossy production values of this book with the breathtaking inanity of the content." Have a look at Oktar's book, Atlas Of Creation. I think Dawkins was being rather kind.

There are many reasons why all this banning is so frustrating and stupid, too many for me to go into right now because it's LE's dinnertime and I don't think the Wiggles will hold him much longer. I'm sure you can come up with enough angry reasons of your own.


Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Rather than punish those bad linkers, or the illegal sources themselves, a court in Diyarbakır ordered the whole of Blogspot blocked.

I'd say be careful what you wish for. While it might be argued that, in principle, dealing with the actual physical source is no different than what happens with regular law enforcement, the surgical kind of blocking that people say that they'd prefer is far far more sinister and dangerous because the technical wherewithal it requires to be effective. I'll put my naive hat on and say that I'd sooner have this kind of action that annoys many and induces people to talk about the issues than giving a precision long range weapon with a high powered scope to the powers that be.

We have some idea about what happens to the general public's aversion to war when they believe their army has the capability for 'surgical' strikes. It might be a stretch but it's not altogether unreasonable to make a similar analogy to surgical censorship and the public perception of the regulation of flow of information.

Conceptually, this is a problem with pretty much all countries (and the list does include the US since protection of 'intellectual property' clashes with the first amendment in many non-obvious ways).

Stranger said...

Eek! I hope I didn't imply I wish for this. I was just trying to highlight the stupidity of the ban and how it came about. Clearly there is a great deal of ignorance about the technology. And the reasons behind this particular ban don't bother me nearly as much as idiots with silly libel or "insult" cases using Telekom to try to prevent people from reading nasty things about them.

I, for one, take issue with protection of intellectual copywright laws and penalties, particularly with the Internet. It really seems like a big waste of time to mainly protect corporations' rights to make more money. And it's not like Turkey is such a bastion of respect for copywright law and piracy. Certain enormous collections of pirated CDs and DVDs, bought both on the street and in shops attest to this. And could the joyous wonder that is Dünyayı Kutaran Adam have come to be if the Turkish film industry of old believed in the validity of copywright?

I think you bring up a really important point about the technology needed to catch and penalize Internet wrongdoers. While it seems good to me to be able to target really horrible people, like child pornographers, the potential for evil uses by governments and corporations perhaps outweighs the goodness of catching a few guys who I think are bad...

Good to hear from you again!

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

And could the joyous wonder that is Dünyayı Kutaran Adam have come to be if the Turkish film industry of old believed in the validity of copywright?

Heh, kidding aside, that kind of creativity is what people like Larry Lessig argue for. See this talk for example:

This is a very complicated issue, we'll see how things evolve.

(Welcome back to the land of the unruly.)

Stranger said...

Here's a really interesting article from Harper's both explaining and illustrating the difficulties of copywright law, especially as it applies to plagiarism: (Irony alert: I'm not sure if it can be reached if you're not a Harper's subscriber)

There is nothing new under the sun. And I totally stole that line from the Bible.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

The Harper's article is accessible. It didn't tell me anything I didn't already know, but it is good to see the issue being presented to an audience outside of techie geekdom. There's one missed opportunity though. I quote:

The first Congress to grant copyright gave authors an initial term of fourteen years, which could be renewed for another fourteen if the author still lived. The current term is the life of the author plus seventy years. It's only a slight exaggeration to say that each time Mickey Mouse is about to fall into the public domain, the mouse's copyright term is extended.

This is true, and the latest extension as been challenged but the supremes did not strike it down.

What he doesn't say is worth saying, so I will say it. Patents, based on the same provision in the Constitution, also started out with a similar term (14 years) and unlike copyright they are now valid for a comparable length of time (20 or so years). One -- possibly crucial -- difference, IMHO, is that both sides of the patent debate are businessmen and thus you do not get this concentrated private power vs. diffuse public interest situation.