Mass protests in Turkey over internet censorship

Internet users gathered across Turkey yesterday to protest against a government plan to censor Internet access in the country, in a series of marches organised on social networking site Facebook.

Demonstrations took place in 40 towns and cities across the country, including a mass rally of thousands on Istanbul's central shopping street, Istiklal, with protesters bearing placards reading "Don't Touch My Internet" and "We will not bow to censorship".

The protest come in response to plans by Turkey's Internet regulator, the Information and Communication Technologies Authority, or BTK, to introduce a range of pre-set filters users, and to ban the use of certain words in web addresses.

According to local press reports, words banned from URLs would include common terms such as "blonde" and "sister-in-law", as well as a list of rude words.

BTK head Tayfun Acarer dismissed criticism of the move earlier this month, stating that the four filter proposed - profiles for 'children's, 'family' profile, 'domestic' or 'standard' profile - would be voluntary.

So far, though, few details have been released as to how the system - which is due to come into effect in August - will work.

"These filters would turn the Internet into a state-controlled area," Serkan Dogan, 29, told the Wall Street Journal. "You'd enter a channel leading you to the server of the state, which distributes the Internet to millions of users. The system enables the control of citizens... like telephone tapping."

Turkey has a chequered record on Internet freedom. At present more than 5,000 websites are believed to be blocked by the country's government. As thinq_ reported last October, Turkish authorities lifted a two-year ban on video sharing site YouTube - only to reinstate it temporarily just a few days later in a row over a candid sex tape featuring a leading Turkish politician.