Maltepe University, Communication Faculty
Being Online in Turkey: Inclusion and exclusion between boundaries
In April 12 2011, the Internet has celebrated its 18 birthday in Turkey. 18 years ago, 12 April 1993 with 64 Kbps leased line capacity, Middle East Technical University Computer Center using system routers hall, NSFNet in the U.S. (National Science Foundation Network), to the TCP / IP protocol, the first internet connection was performed.
For today’s statistics, there were 35,000,000 Internet users as of June/2010, (representing 45.0% of the population), according to Internet World Stats.
The online population of Turkey far surpasses the rest of Europe in terms of time spent and content consumed per person. Much of this heavy engagement is driven by usage of social networking and entertainment media sites, which maintain users' attention for extended periods of time. (comScore, May 2010).
As the situation of internet was so in Turkey, lately there has been a new regulation regarding the use of internet sites. Council of Information and Communication Technology (CICT), prepared the Use of the Internet Safety Rules and Procedures which will enter into force on 22 August 2011. In this application, users have to choose one of the filters for accessing the internet. Overcoming the filter is considered as a crime. Filter criteria are determined entirely by the CICT. Not only access to “harmful content”, determined by ICTA, but also most of the social media sites like blogs or youtube will be restricted by this new legislation. This leads the Turkish society into two camps the pro-democracy, “cyberoptimist” camp; and the anti-democracy, “cyberpessimist” camp (Keegan W. Wade, Michael L. Best, 2006).
In this paper, our aim is to state Turkey’s online situation within the lights of new regulations. As a consequence, the aim of this paper is double. On one hand we are willing to discuss the relationship between democracy and internet –if there is any- by referring to existing democracy and internet theories (Shanthi Kalathil and Tyler Boas, 2003; Best & Wade, 2006) On the other hand, we will focus on the question whether the internet turn out to be market place rather than democratic discourse? As mentioned by Benkler (2006, Wealth of Networks), a tiny number of sites are highly linked, the vast majority of “speakers” are not heard, and the democratic potential of the Internet is lost. Although for some academics, the democratic potential of the internet is undeniable, for some like Eli Noam (2003), money will dominate the capacity to be heard on the Internet, even if it no longer controls the capacity to speak.
Networks are henceforth in the heart of our modes of communications. Do they really transform our societies? In a context where the democratic roots of internet have been approached by hesitation, the restrictions of some web sites, like in Turkey case, could be analyzed as an effort to control the internet’s power by government. Our concern in this situation is whether there is difference between the control of internet by governments and the control of internet by corporate market actors? In both cases, in the name of inclusion, some opinions are being excluded either for network markets’ big bosses’ benefits or for the public’s safe use of the internet.
Taking Turkey and the lately announced restrictive regulations of internet as a case, we will try to discuss the theoretical debate between cyberoptimist and cyberpessimist regarding the internet's potential of democracy and also considering the market rules and how all these affects our use of internet. We will also argue the possible regulations for a more open internet which is independent from the government and market's actors.