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Earlier this year Turkey’s Information Technologies Board (BTK) announced plans to require all internet users to install a filtering software in order to access the internet. The proposed software would come with four content settings to choose from: standard, domestic, family and child. However, the criteria for blocking content would not be made public.

The announcement sparked widespread protests in May.

Under this regime, the Turkish government offers its citizens a false choice between ‘many restrictions’ and ‘some restrictions’. While the BTK insists the software is intended to protect children, critics claim that the software is an attempt to increase government control over the internet.

Recently, however, the Turkish government appears to be giving ground. Originally planned to be introduced on August 22nd, the software’s release has been postponed until November 22nd pending a period of public consultation. Further, citizens will no longer be required to install the software.

This is a huge win for Turkish human rights advocates. Their country has long been under scrutiny for its controversial censorship laws and this latest proposal would have placed it firmly in the company of the most restrictive states like China and Iran.

The idea of a mandatory filtering software on personal computers is not new. In fact, this latest case is eerily reminiscent of China’s failed Green Dam project, which required all computer manufacturers to pre-install the filtering software. Also wildly unpopular, this project was abandoned in late 2009.

Both cases are a testament to the value of sustained advocacy. The abandonment of these policies shows that it is possible to resist government encroachments into our private lives.

Unrestricted access to the internet is crucial to exercising freedom of expression and association. But we must not take it for granted.

Photo by Kevin Anderson. Used with permission under Creative Commons license 2.0.