Wikipedia censored by Middle Eastern country

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Wikipedia is a censored site in Turkey with traffic to it blocked, following unmet demands by the country for removal of content that supports terror or terrorist groups.

The Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications, Turkey’s official news agency, said Wikipedia articles and comments indicate that Turkey is in coordination and aligned with various terrorist groups.  They say Wikipedia is “becoming an information source acting with groups conducting a smear campaign against Turkey in the international arena.”

With no additional details provided, speculations about the root of the ban are swirling.

One possibility is that the ban stems from Turkey’s stance against information in favor Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a group Turkey says spreads “terror propaganda.” According to Wikipedia, “Since 1984 the PKK has waged an armed struggle against the Turkish state for equal rights and self-determination for the Kurds in Turkey.”

Wikipedia writers have published accusations that Turkey has has been collaborating with Syrian jihadists. Officials in Turkey deny the allegations.

Another possible reason for the restriction is the existence of unflattering information written about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his Wikipedia profile.  Post-election, which happened on April 16, there was a referendum on enhancing his powers.

Pro-government bloggers say Erdogan was described as a “dictator” on the profile, as some Turkish residents are fearful that the new presidential system will lead to one-man rule. Government officials say it will improve efficiency.

Turkey’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) confirmed the ban on Wikipedia, but gave no specific details about what content led to it.

“After technical analysis and legal consideration based on the Law Nr. 5651, an administrative measure has been taken for this website,” was all it said.

The ban, affecting all language editions of the site, will be backed by a formal court order, which should be in place within a few days.

Turkey Blocks monitoring group, which monitors internet restrictions in Turkey, reports that they first detected the block at 0500 GMT following an administrative order by the Turkish authorities.

In a statement, Turkish blocks confirmed, “The loss of availability is consistent with internet filters used to censor content in the country.”

This isn’t the first time Turkish authorities targeted a popular site for censorship.  YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have all been on a temporary block in the past.

According to global news site AFP:

  • In 2014, YouTube was banned for several months in Turkey after the site was used to broadcast purported footage of a security meeting on Syria.
  • In 2013, restrictions were placed on social media use during protests against the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
  • In 2016, Turkey placed restrictions on WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other sites after controversial arrests of pro-Kurdish MPs.

According to Prime Minister Binali Yildirim,”From time to time for security reasons we can use such measures… These are temporary measures. Once the danger is passed, everything returns to normal.”

Turkish government agents say when they place temporary restrictions, they’re necessary for the security of the country. They’ve also denied such censorship and blamed outages on spikes in usage after major events.

Anadolu news agency said the access ban would be lifted if Wikipedia complies with Turkish demands.

Turkey has requested that such websites take such steps as having a representative in the country, complying with principles of international law, implementing court rulings, and not being part of any smear campaign or operation in Turkey.

Turkey’s Republican People’s Party parliamentarian Eren Erdem tweeted about the ban.  He says “Blocking access to Wikipedia puts Turkey in line with North Korea. It’s wrong. There’s a closed totalitarian regime.”

Meanwhile, Turkish internet users are angrily denouncing the restrictions and see it as an attack on civil liberties under Erdogan. To get around these bans, some internet users are turning to VPNs, although there have been reports that VPNs have also been blocked.

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