Government Control of the Internet -- A View From Istanbul's Streets Echo Concerns on U.S. Streets

Turkish Riot Police are using water cannon, tear gas and rubber (for the moment) bullets to quell the hundreds of demonstrators marching in Istanbul.

"Rubber bullets makes it sound too restrained," Citizen-Activist Gurkan Ozturan declares. "They actually aim for the eyes."

What the government of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is aiming for is the heart of Internet freedom in his country. This, by a man under investigation for a number of civil violations, infamous for his attempts to throttle dissent at public protests over the past year, and whose public portraits feature him as "The Iron Leader."

Shades of the '30s. One can only wonder how this neo-Ottoman (some would say, neo-Fascist) description and his actions might affect Turkey's candidacy for European Union membership.

In a "15 minutes of Fact interview," produced the very day and time at which the law was passed ("It was given one minute of debate"), Ozturan gives us his thoughts as well as insight into the dangers to civil liberties found in the passage of this "Internet Content Control bill" by the Turkish government.

Among its intrusions on civil liberties, the law permits Turkish agencies to access websites without court authorization if they (the websites) -- and these are the key words -- "are deemed to violate privacy, or feature content seen as 'insulting,'" Ozturan explains.

(To be fair, the government's logic cannot be faulted. What could be more "insulting" than to have their misdeeds and offenses to society discussed, made public, and widely circulated on the Internet?)

Of the many questions asked, each was responded to in studied and incisive answers. "Was this bill prepared after the corruption scandal that was revealed last month, or did it have roots in earlier governmental misdeeds such as last year's social movement protests? What recourse does the common citizen have in fighting this legislation?"

Each of the answers seem to also call for a response from the rest of the "free world." Is this step by Turkey a harbinger of what is to come in western countries which also want to control Internet content? Is it too hard to imagine that the all-too-much militarized police in the United States may be tempted -- or directed -- to go beyond "kettling" and tear gas and employ rubber bullets?

If so, this will bring forth people like Ozturan and his fellow protestors. They will likely be young, educated, disaffected and anti-authoritarian. And, they will come in numbers.

Ozturan's credentials, as example, include a BA in Western Languages and Literatures, an MA centered around his investigation of the Rise of the Radical Right in European Politics, and a second MA from Istanbul's Bilgi University at the Faculty of European Union. And, he is a published author.

But, his activist platform and role is as the person responsible for the Pirate Party of Turkey's International Communications.

Communications - especially over and through the Internet - is both the soul of world-wide activists and the bane of governments who prefer their citizenry to get their news from the MSM (main stream media).

Of the many facets of the bill which the "free Turk" finds to be anathema, one in particular calls to mind the NSA spying here (there, and everywhere). :The Turkish law violates the right to stay anonymous," Ozturan points out. "It will require Internet Providers to keep records of their users activities for two years and to 'take down' any information which the government does not like."

It seems to me that Turkey has a long ways to go to catch up with some NSA practices. But, does the NSA and our own government have that far to go to throttle the Internet as they see fit?

Only time will tell. And activists in the U.S. are checking their watches.