World Library and Information Congress: 78th IFLA General Conference and Assembly - 11-16 August 2012, Helsinki, Finland

Response: New media control in Europe
-Erkan Saka, Assistant Professor, Istanbul Bilgi University, School of Communication

I am mostly knowledgeable about the Turkish Case. I will add the most recent developments to my piece already published in FAIFE site. My concrete examples will be from where I actually live. However, before delving into issues of control in Turkey, there are several points to start with:

1. The most effective way to respond to increasing new media control is the rise of even more innovative forms of collaboration, creation of substantive digital communities backed by offline collaborations and community activities. Thus insistence on the impact of collective intelligence (Lévy, Pierre. 2001. Collective intelligence. Reading digital culture 4: 253.)

2. I believe one of the best applications of collective intelligence is Henry Jenkins? use of the concept in Convergence Culture (Jenkins, Henry. 2006. Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. NYU press, August 1). Here another concept emerges: Participatory Culture. Without being utopian or technologically determinist, I insist on new media?s increasing power of offering citizens to be participatory. Participant citizens with their collective digital power can make online but also offline changes. A strong society of citizens who are part of participatory culture can be the single strong answer to all anxieties related to control issues.

3. Therefore, there should be a never ending campaign to further media literacy training/education among citizens. All our understanding of education needs to be transformed but there is still a need to teach about the potential of new media. Every generation is bound to be more adept at new media usage but…

4. New media is still an emerging medium whose newer boundaries will have be learnt..

5. That new media is not automatically learned but needs a process of experience…. and this learning process does not necessarily end in good faith. Hate speech can be as viral as democratic values. In the mean time, totalitarian regimes can also pick new media quite rapidly and effectively.



Internet and social media do not necessarily go hand in hand with the democracy, although many technology utopists have had this type of ideals. Internet alone has not turned out to enhance democratic development, transparency and fair governance. There are many other factors in the background: economic, cultural, religious, political, individual and chances of history.

In many countries internet has mainly extended the power of the government or strengthened the impact of totalitarian regimes (MacKinnon, 2012a).

Governments do not any more ask if internet can be regulated, but

rather how to regulate internet and how regulation should be carried out most efficiently.

At the same time, there is a growing public realization about the power relations of

internet. The influence of powerful actors and their battles over power and control of the

cyberspace has become evident. Large civil society reactions have emerged against

extended control mechanisms (“access contested”). (Deibert et al, 2010)

6. In the mean time, there is the problem of processing the existing Big Data. Most of the attempts in behalf of the Authorities are about the anxiety of how to organize the inflowing and ever increasing Big Data. Too much control/surveillance data does not automatically mean more efficient surveillance.  Therefore the quote that follows can also be used as an example of this hard-to-process issue:


within a certain institution or even nationally, since the context of data ownership and management has changed. There is no one Big Brother or surveilling party, but a group of possible globally and locally networked actors, public-private partnerships and merging of data from different sources to (Karhula, Päivikki. Data driven futures-censorship takes new forms.)

However, many people are not aware of the multiplicity of agents and algorithms around personal data collection, storing of their data for future use, possible uses of their data – and about the dimensions of profitable personal data economy (Boyd & Crawford, 2012)

7. Pavikki has a very good point:

The theme of internet censorship is divided to several subtopics e.g. internet culture, technologies, marketplace, privacy, and anonymity… (Karhula, Päivikki. Data driven futures-censorship takes new forms.)

This quote is a good line for future work on the issues of control. But/and relatedly here how I feel sort of against the grain when Neelie Kroes speaks in behalf of internet freedom:


So this year we will engage with European standardisation bodies and the industry to determine the best way forward. For standards that means content providers and operators can get a uniform service offering, avoid duplicate charges, and exploit economies of scale. We also need to preserve openness of access to Internet services: what some call net neutrality

Press Releases – Neelie Kroes Vice-President of the European ?

8. Thus:

Despite all good will in the quote above, maybe standardisation is not a very good thing. As the recent events demonstrate, this paves the way for easy surveillance. Maybe it will not be user friendly but innovations and minimum level of standardization seems to be the best… Maybe internet should remain to be in a state of shanty-town/ informal economy/ street warfare style where central authorities have difficulty to penetrate…

9. In this context:

Until recently there were the enemies of internet who were also the totalitarian/authorian regimes and there was nothing to be surprised. The surprising moment is that Western/Democratic regimes are becoming the source of internet surveillance all over the world.

This happens at several levels:

10. a) Western hi-tech companies provide the tools for repressive regimes.
A very informative article here:
Jamming Tripoli: Inside Moammar Gadhafi?s Secret Surveillance Network

but worse

11. b) Western countries become models of repression. Western countries such as France can be used to justify explicit control over web access.

France is possibly the best model for Turkey in many aspects and French Internet law (HADOPI) is an excuse for Turkey?s BTK?s Internet Law, 5651.

France has been listed in RSF?s Enemies of Internet Report for two years now.
Enemies of the Internet Countries under surveillance


Mr. Cameron’s panicky call to control social media..

The problem with ACTA is not only about the consequences of the law but also how it was negotiated: in an ?intense but needless secrecy?
For the moment, there is relief that at a European level there is an alliance to oppose global control but the way the law was created and negotiated implies that there will be more attempts to come…


On the same day, Kader Arif, a French Socialist member of the European Parliament, quit as the body?s special rapporteur for ACTA. He said the European Parliament and civil society organizations had been excluded from the negotiations, and he denounced the entire process as a ?masquerade.? The issue, which had gotten little traction in the news media previously, began to move into the headlines, with calls for national legislatures and the European Parliament to reject the treaty.

Press Releases – Neelie Kroes Vice-President of the European ?

which they criticized what they said was the ?intense but needless secrecy? under which the negotiations were carried out, as well as the White House?s argument that Mr. Obama had the authority to endorse ACTA not as a treaty,

A New Question of Internet Freedom


Pavikki says:

Hungary introduced a new media law. Significant parts were incompatible with European law. Not least because rules about registration and balanced reporting could have imposed heavy obligations on all kinds of online content, from online forums to personal blogs.

Press Releases – Neelie Kroes Vice-President of the European ?

The problem with Hungary is not limited to internet though. It seems that has something to do with a national level media culture or more generally political culture. Hungarian government has given negative signals in terms of freedom of speech at a general level and that media law move was the last step.

12: Here, back to Turkey:


This is where I can connect Hungarian case to Turkish case. Because, Turkey, who is another country in the Enemies of Internet list, is not only increasingly repressive on the Internet but also on all media activities and showing worsening signs in human rights issues. Thus Turkey?s approach to internet control issues have to be contextualized within a broader worsening situation…. In the mean time, French HADOPI law and ACTA and similar attempts are used as justifications back in Turkey.

However, before dealing with explicit cases let me back to article 7 above to elaborate.

We frequently limit our understanding of censorship maybe because of explicit repressive actions that go on. However, as a doctoral student, Sarah Harris, who works on digital technology and media policy in Turkey,  clearly demonstrated, there are implicit, extensive and global level of control/censor issues that netizens have to deal with in near future:

14 A
?expanding ?digital censorship? to include the restriction of software choices?


Ms. Harris says:

So within the global ICT ?free-marketplace?, there is such a thing as welcomed competition and unwelcomed competition. ICT corporations welcome competition with other proprietary software developers, but they do not look so favorably upon open-source developers. Hence, the ?freedom of choice? within the free-market strongly emphasizesproprietary choices. Whatever ?choice? the user makes, it?s assumed that licenses should be purchased, source-code should remain inaccessible, and updates will inevitably require further investment. This pre-selection is a form of restriction, suppression.. it?s the withholding of information and education about alternative forms of software. This primarily benefits global ICT companies and governments. There are spill-over benefits to governments, who can enact content-filtering policies as they see fit, already having won the silence/loyalty of global firms by favoring them in multi-billion dollar digital-project tenures. Symbiotic.


15 B
?expanding the concept of ?digital censorship? to include infrastructure monopolization

Here again Ms. Harris says:

Let?s look at an example from the U.S. In ?Why Our Phones and Internet Are Being Threatened by a Big Telecom Privatization Scheme?, (7/26/2012), David Rosen and Bruce Kushnick outline how the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to fully deregulate and privatize the nation?s telecommunications network ? a.k.a. the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). The FCC?s purported aim is to replace traditional voice service with voice-over-the-internet (VoIP) service. The former was public, the latter, private, but still, it?s unclear how different they will actually be, as both use the same (mostly) copper-wire infrastructure. Rosen and Kushnick argue that

the FCC?s efforts are intended to end telecom?s traditional ?utility? requirement as the ?carrier of last resort.? In this way, telcos will no longer have to provide phone service to those they deem ?unprofitable,? especially in rural areas.

So, in other words, after privatization, there is no guarantee that phone services will be accessible to low-income users and remote areas. This former ?public service? will cease to exist. If you can?t pay, then maybe the ?last-mile? coming up to your home or apartment won?t function anymore, or will function much more slowly (speed is a key differentiator here). And because phone, internet and television are bundled, this means that all of these services may be inaccessible to some users and areas.

16 C
Finally information itself may need to be deconstructed. What we know as information is subject to change and subject to be redefined. Ms. Harris? post on the information and censorship actually reminds me of my thinking on the articles 2-4.  Netizens may find loopholes and can change the rules of the game as particular forms of information are actually reified and controlled. I just try to be hopeful (!)

Going back to Turkey again.
An overview is already posted in the FAIFE site here.

In sum, I had stated that:

Overall, I would classify major problems related to internet regulation in Turkey in four categories: a) despite good intentions, a centralized State commanded internet regulation may lead to politicised and arbitrary regulative patters; b) existing laws include wide and sometimes arbitrary range of crimes to ban websites; c) arbitrariness at implementation of the law1 and d) authorities? lack of understanding the nature of web 2.0 sites.

Since then one major issue to add that Turkey now uses “Deep Packet Inspection” to make more intense use of surveillance…

Tagged in: , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: