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Turkey’s telecom body given more power to monitor internet users

The proposal allows the head of the TİB to block websites and content in order to 'protect national security and public order, as well as to prevent crime.'

Turkey’s Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) has been granted the authority to monitor Internet users and block websites and their content without court permission, according to a new proposal made by the ruling party late Sept. 8.

The proposal, which came during talks on a huge omnibus bill, allows the head of the TİB to block websites and content in order to “protect national security and public order, as well as to prevent crime.” The service provider will be required to shut down the website or remove the content within four hours, if the omnibus bill is approved.

The government changed the Internet Law in early 2014 after a social media campaign targeted government members over corruption claims. The voice recordings of a number of Turkish officials allegedly showing them accepting bribes, including former Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, shook Turkish politics, with the government banning the social media websites Twitter and YouTube in a bid to stem the leaks.

While the blocks on those websites have been lifted, the current changes to the Internet Law through the omnibus bill are regarded as further measures to monitor web users and the sites they visit.

According to current regulations related to blocking websites, after issuing service providers with an initial order to block access to a site, the TİB must apply to court within 24 hours to get a legal decision. The latter has 48 hours to respond to the TİB’s request.

Last night’s proposals included a last minute addition on how Internet traffic would be stored. The current law authorizes service providers to store the data accumulated by web users for two years and the TIB is only able to request this information upon a court decision, or as part of a criminal investigation.

However, the recent changes allow for the TIB to store the data in-house and to hand over the data to relevant institutions upon a court decision. “The process to present information on specific web traffic data to the court used to take at least a month, which caused a serious delay. By storing this information at the TIB, this process will be much quicker,” officials told daily Hürriyet.

The European Union and the United States have both severely criticized the Turkish government for increasing government control over the Internet, particularly after the blocks on Twitter and YouTube were imposed.

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