Freedom of the Internet demonstration, TBT

Odd to see this Internet ban memory from my final days as an expat in Istanbul at a time when America is voting to save or kill Net Neutrality tomorrow.

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A photo author, journalist & mid-east politics expert Hugh Pope took of me midway in the march from his Istiklal apartment.

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What Hugh Pope wrote about that day:

Some pictures of demonstrators on Sunday 15 May 2011 calling for reform of Turkey's new conservative internet laws in Istanbul's Istiklal St today - the biggest, loudest and happiest protest I've seen in more than a decade of living in the city center. Some signs were funny too: "Dawkins is a scientist, not a pornographer, you retard!" "Your Internet is being cut according to Islamic regulations" (carried by the two gentlemen in chador-like garb, punning on signs in religious-minded meat shops) "EnSUCKlopedia" (well, roughly), "Censorship for Security is like Sex for Virginity" and "Hands off my porn". 

Unless the government backtracks, a whole new system goes into force on 22 August. Internet providers will be obliged to offer every subscriber four filters of varying severity, and forcing Internet cafes to choose which sites can be accessed in advance. Any attempt to bypass such regulations will be criminal, and all Internet providers will be responsible for enforcement. 

The liberal Radikal newspaper, for instance, compares this coming system to that of China, Iran or Cuba. This appears to be a new turn for Turkey, which has so far been ambivalent on Internet freedom - YouTube was banned for what seemed like years, but even the Prime Minister noted that it was easy to use a proxy server to reach it. But from 22 August even proxies will be banned ... and all this in a country negotiating to join the EU! 

Not only Turks are concerned. Turkey's expat harem's Queen of Social Media, Anastasia Ashman, peeled off the crowds to visit and tweet from our windows overlooking the crowds of tens of thousands (see picture). At the same time, her Internet guru husband Burc managed to get my wi-fi system working properly for the first time in five years. So a big catch-up for me and I hope the demo will turn into a giant step forward for Turkey.