YouTube was banned for three years in Turkey on the grounds that certain videos were insulting to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the modern republic’s founder, or to “Turkishness”, write Funda Ustek and Irem Kok.
Between March 2007 and November 2010, YouTube was banned in Turkey following decisions by local courts in Istanbul, Ankara and Sivas on the grounds that certain videos were “insulting Mustafa Kemal Atatürk” and “Turkishness“, both offences under the Turkish penal code. The ban was part of a sweeping law passed in 2007, which gave the government the authority to ban any website on the grounds of committing eight crimes, among which child pornography, gambling, prostitution and “crimes against Atatürk” are listed.
The video clips leading to the YouTube ban portrayed Atatürk and Turks as homosexuals. This also resulted in a Greek-Turkish cyber conflict on YouTube through the user comments under these videos, where individuals from both countries posted hostile comments against each other.
During the period YouTube was censored, many Turkish users tried to access the website by playing with their proxy settings or using proxy server websites. Circumventing the ban became a publicly-known phenomenon along with the proliferation of web-based accounts of how to adjust proxy settings to access banned sites. The know-how clearly extended to the highest levels of the state: in response to reporters’ questions on the court’s ban on YouTube in November 2008, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said: “I can access [YouTube], you do it, too.” In June 2010, President Abdullah Gül publicly declared his disapproval of the YouTube ban via his Twitter account and instructed state officials to return access. The ban was lifted in October 2010, but briefly reintroduced in November of the same year. As of January 2012, YouTube was not banned in Turkey.