European court rules against Turkey in Google Sites ban
Europe's top human rights court has ruled against Turkey in a case filed by Ahmet Yıldırım, a Turkish academic whose website, hosted by Google, was blocked by court order, claiming that the Turkish court's decision was a violation of his freedom of expression.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg found Turkey guilty in the case of Ahmet Yıldırım v. Turkey, criticizing Turkey for blocking access to an entire online platform just to block a single website's content.

The original blocking order came after a user of Google Sites posted an article which included insults directed at Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Turkish Republic -- a violation of Turkish law. A court in Denizli ordered the website shut down in 2009.

The Turkish Telecommunications Directorate (TİB), the body responsible for implementing the ban, told the court that it was technically impossible to shut down the website and that it needed authorization to shut down the entire online platform of Google Sites. The court found TİB's request legitimate and granted permission. By shutting down the platform, the TİB blocked access to all other websites hosted by Google Sites.

In the case he filed with the ECtHR, Yıldırım, whose own website is hosted by Google Sites, accused Turkish authorities of blocking the content of all websites hosted by the platform and hence violating Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The article guarantees citizens of countries party to the convention the right to express opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas.

The European court found that the blocking of the Google Sites websites was a violation of Yıldırım's freedom of expression.

The court found that the legal framework in place in Turkey was inadequate and failed to provide sufficient safeguards against abuse. The decision said in order to comply with the requirements of Article 10 of the ECHR, a restriction must be prescribed by law, which means it must be formulated with sufficient precision to enable individuals to regulate their conduct. However, the relevant Turkish law did not authorize the wholesale blocking of an entire online platform such as Google Sites. The law also failed to provide sufficient safeguards against potential abuses, the court found.

The ECtHR criticized the Turkish court for granting extensive powers to an administrative body, the TİB, allow it to broadly implement a blocking order originally issued for use against a specific site.

Commenting on the European court's decision in remarks to the Taraf daily on Wednesday, Yıldırım's lawyer, Ayşe Kaymak, said the court's decision sets a precedent for thousands of decisions about Internet bans.

"Several rulings have been made until now that have illegally blocked access to websites, violating the rights of the people," she said.

(Cihan/Today's Zaman) CİHAN
Last Modified: 2012-12-19 20:00:03
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