TİB’s ‘forbidden words list’ inconsistent with law, say Turkish web providers
The TİB sent a list of 138 words Thursday to Turkish web-hosting firms, urging them to ban Internet domains that include such words.
A request made Thursday by the TTelecommunications Directorate, or TİB, to ban a total of 138 words from Turkish Internet domain names has no legal basis and has left companies unsure of what action to take, according to experts.
“Providing a list and urging companies to take action to ban sites that contain the words and threatening to punish them if they don’t has no legal grounds,” Yaman Akdeniz, a cyber-rights activist and a law professor at Istanbul Bilgi University, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in a phone interview Friday. Akdeniz said no authority could decide that an action was illegal just by association.
The TİB sent a list of 138 words Thursday to Turkish web-hosting firms, urging them to ban Internet domains that include such words. The directive leaves tens of thousands of Turkish websites facing the risk of closure.
“Hosting companies are not responsible for monitoring for illegal activities; their liability arises only if they take no action after being notified by the TİB – or any other party – and are asked to remove certain illegal content,” Akdeniz said.
The TİB cited the Internet ban law number 5651 and related legislation as the legal ground for its request. The law, however, does not authorize firms to take action related to banning websites.
“The hosting company is not responsible for controlling the content of the websites it provides domains to or researching/exploring on whether there is any illegal activity or not. They are responsible for removing illegal content when they are informed and there is the technical possibility of doing so,” according to Article 5 of the law.
On Thursday, following the heated debate surround the “forbidden” list, the TİB said the list was sent to hosting firms for informatory purposes. But the statement further confused the situation, as the body threatened companies with punishment if they did not obey its directions regarding the list in the first letter sent to service providers.
“The TİB’s press statement is not clear, nor is it satisfactory,” Akdeniz said, adding that it was a pity the directorate was still standing behind the list.
The TİB’s action is inconsistent with the related law and bylaw, and its subsequent statement contradicted both the request and the legislation,” Devrim Demirel, founder and chief executive officer of BerilTech, Turkey’s leading domain name and business intelligence company, told the Daily News on Friday. He added they were still confused and did not know what their next move would be.
Demirel said they had no answers to the questions from hundreds of his company’s customers from Turkey and abroad, including Google’s com.tr and Yahoo’s com.tr services.
The TİB’s letter said the body would punish companies for not taking action to ban domains containing “forbidden words,” but it did not specify what kind of punishment it implied, according to Demirel. “It is still not clear whether there will be administrative or other sanctions.”
Noting that the implementation of the TİB’s request on the forbidden names list could have many negative technical implications, Demirel said, “I think the TİB personnel who worked on the issues related to banning access are not endowed with the necessary technical knowledge and skills.”
He said customers had not taken any illegal action, but domains that include the words TİB wants to filter and then ban could incur losses.
“There is no guarantee in the existing related legislation that I will not be asked to compensate the company in such a case,” Demirel said, adding that there were many other complex technicalities like this one that could emerge should the TİB’s request be implemented.
Demirel said he received TİB’s letter via an email, which he said was neither ethical nor secure.
“Do we have to make a technical check of the sender’s identity each time the TİB sends us an email? Requests with such important implications should be sent officially to each company’s office address, with the respective seal and signatures,” he said.
Despite the problems, Demirel said banning websites in itself was the wrong approach. “Banning access to websites is in itself a censuring service.”
The TİB’s latest request also implied censure, he said.
Banned words have many scratching heads.
The effect of the TİB’s request could see the closure of many websites that include a number of words. For example, the website “donanimalemi.com” (hardwareworld.com) could be banned because the domain name has the word “animal” in it; likewise, “sanaldestekunitesi.com,” (virtualsupportunit.com) could be closed down because of the word “anal.” Websites will also be forbidden from using the number 31 in their domain names because it is slang for male masturbation.
Some banned English words include “beat,” “escort,” “homemade,” “hot,” “nubile,” “free” and “teen.” Some other English words would also be banned because of their meanings in Turkish: “pic,” short for picture, is banned because it means “bastard” in Turkish. The past tense of the verb “get” is also banned because “got” means “butt” in Turkish. Haydar, a very common Alevi name for men, is also banned because it means penis in slang.
“Gay” and its Turkish pronunciation, “gey;” “çıplak” (naked); “itiraf” (confession); “liseli” (high school student); “nefes” (breath) and “yasak” (forbidden) are some of the other banned words.