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Turkish president criticizes ban on Google services

Turkish President Abdullah Gul [official website, in Turkish; BBC profile] on Thursday criticized the country's ban on several Google [corporate website] services, calling for officials to find a legal way to restore access. Gul, in messages posted to his Twitter account [official account, in Turkish], expressed his disapproval of the bans, calling for them to be lifted. Article 5651 [NMDC backgrounder] of the Turkish penal code [text, in Turkish] allows the Turkish government to block websites for hosting content such as child pornography or for encouraging suicide. Under the law, citizens can report websites that violate the law online [website, in Turkish], after which a court may rule to block access to the reported websites. Last week, Turkey's Telecommunications Communication Presidency (TIB) indefinitely restricted Google services [JURIST report], including Google Docs and Google Translate, due to "legal reasons," according to local news reports. The TIB, which controls Internet accessibility in Turkey, released a statement last week stating that it has blocked certain Google IP addresses. The formal announcement came after several Internet service providers and costumers reported slow service and inaccessibility to the website. The Google services that are currently being restricted include docs.google.com, translate.google.com, books.google.com, google-analytics.com and tools.google.com. Blocking these services will make it harder for Turkish users to access YouTube indirectly.

In January, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) [official website] called for the repeal [press release] of Article 5651 in order to bring Turkey's penal code in line with Turkey's commitments to OSCE and international standards. Additionally, it accused the Turkish government of using political and arbitrary reasons for blocking certain websites. Turkey implemented a controversial ban on the popular video-sharing website YouTube [JURIST report] in 2008 in response to video clips purportedly insulting the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk [BBC profile]. In Turkey, insulting Ataturk is an imprisonable offense. Similarly, "insulting the Turkish identity" is a serious crime under the controversial Article 301 [AI backgrounder] of the penal code. Internet users in Turkey are currently blocked from accessing nearly four thousand websites.

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