Information Technologies and Communications Authority (BTK) President Tayfun Acarer on Thursday said Internet users in Turkey will not be obliged to choose one of the filtering options proposed in a new regulation that would go into effect in August.
Speaking during a press conference he called to respond to criticism against the regulation, which is feared to bring a series of censors to Internet access through filtering options, Acarer dismissed allegations that Internet users will be obliged to choose a filtering option and said those who want to continue to browse the Net as today will not be obliged to have a filter.
“If we define the current Internet profile as ‘standard,' the ‘Secure Internet Profile' is an addition brought to the current system. This regulation emerged upon demands from many users. We made this regulation after negotiating with many Internet service providers. Any subscriber who wants the current profile will continue to use it, while those who want to have filters can choose the ‘Secure Internet Profile',” he said.
Acarer underscored that those who want to continue with the standard profile do not have to do anything once the regulation comes into effect on Aug. 22. “If a subscriber wants to choose the ‘Secure Internet Profile,' he or she will have to contact the BTK. Those who choose this profile will be asked to pick one of three sub-profiles available: child, family and domestic,” he said.
Although Acarer did not make it clear whether there will be a BTK regulation on the standard profile, there are concerns that the criteria by which websites will be filtered will be determined by the BTK. Critics say even the standard profile is a filter system and will be government mandated. Media reports say that circumventing these measures will be considered a crime and that anyone doing so or attempting to do so will face unspecified fines as many websites are expected to be blocked by the filters irrespective of their content.
Turkey's Internet watchdog has been under fire for a week over the new regulation. Critics say the new regulation, set to come into effect on Aug. 22, will place Turkey among the world's top Internet censoring countries. The regulation, titled “Procedures and Principles Regarding the Safe Use of the Internet,” brings filtering options to Turkey's Internet users.
There are also fears that under the new regulation, the government will have access to individual web-user data. But Acarer dismissed these claims, saying there are close to 9.5 million Internet subscribers and around 40 million Internet users in Turkey. “We do not have the authority to monitor these individuals. How can we control such a database?”
Responding to a question by a reporter on why the BTK had made this regulation considering the fact that Internet service providers already offer filtering options to users, Acarer said, “They were not functioning well.” He said they had received many complaints from users over an extended period of time.
The BTK head once again underlined that there is no filtering or censorship in question.
Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) also termed the new regulation as the “execution warrant for Internet in Turkey,” as the party's deputy chairman Emrehan Halıcı said on Thursday.
A series of demonstrations are set to be held in Turkey in protest of the new regulation this Sunday. The protests, set to begin at 2 p.m., will be held in various provinces. The demonstrations are expected to continue until Aug. 22, deemed “the date on which the Internet died.”