The '2022 Internet Censorship Report' has been published by Free Web Turkey. According to the report, access to at least 40,536 URLs was restricted in 2022. In quantity, news about President Erdoğan and his family was the most blocked, followed by news about individuals and organisations close to the AKP.
The Free Web Turkey 2022 Internet Censorship report reveals how many domain names, news articles, social media posts, and social media accounts were blocked in 2022.
Prepared by Free Web Turkey Project Coordinator Ali Safa Korkut, the report covers the period from January 1 to December 31, 2022. According to the report, last year saw access restrictions imposed on a minimum of 40,536 URLs, including 35,066 domain names, 3,196 news articles, 2,090 social media posts, and 184 social media accounts.
In the news category, the most blocked articles in terms of quantity were those addressing allegations of irregularities involving the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his family. In domain name restrictions, access barriers applied to internet newspapers labelled as "Opposition sites," adopting a publication policy opposed to the government's ideology, stood out.
The report provides examples of blocked news articles and addresses legal regulations related to internet freedoms, access restrictions not reflected in the statistics, the extent of internet censorship in Turkey based on transparency reports from social media platforms, and Turkey's situation according to international organisations’ press freedom reports.
Access to 'Opposition websites' has been blocked 51 times
In 2022, the highest number of access restrictions, 35,066 in total, were applied to domain names.
Out of these 35,066 domain names, 35,000 were claimed to be related to sites featuring content on themes such as "Adult, Gambling, Fraud, Financial Sites, Terrorism." Following them were "Opposition sites" with 51 restrictions.
The term "Opposition sites" refers to the websites of newspapers that adopt a publication policy opposed to the government's ideology, such as Etkin Haber Ajansı (ETHA), Mezopotamya Ajansı, Kızıl Bayrak, Jin News, Siyasi Haber, Umut Gazetesi, Komün Dergi, Gazete Yolculuk, Özgür Gelecek, PİRHA, Yeni Demokrasi, and Kaldıraç Dergisi.
At least 53 domain names belonging to opposition sites were blocked by 51 different decisions. Among opposition sites, ETHA had the highest number of domain names blocked. Starting in 2022 with the domain name etha28.com, ETHA closed the year by operating through etha49.com. Accordingly, access to the agency’s 21 domain names was restricted in 2022.
In the "Other" category, at least 13 URLs were blocked, and this was achieved through 10 decisions. Platforms in this category included the social media platform Tumblr, the Manga culture site Mangago, the content distribution network Bunny CDN, the media organisation Deutsche Welle, the digital research project Radio Garden, and platforms like Havrita.
The domain names were most frequently blocked by Provincial Gendarmerie Commands
In the distribution of the authorities that blocked the most URLs in the domain name category, Adana Provincial Gendarmerie Command ranked first with 12,208, followed by Denizli Provincial Gendarmerie Command with 5,252 and Elazığ Provincial Gendarmerie Command with 4,983.
All URLs blocked by Provincial Gendarmerie Commands were claimed to be related to themes such as 'Adult, Gambling, Fraud, Financial Sites, Terrorism.'
Provincial Gendarmerie Commands occupied the top seven positions, while the eighth position was held by the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) with 866 URLs, and the ninth position was held by the Capital Markets Board (SPK) with 852 URLs.
It was determined that the domain names blocked by TFF were related to sites broadcasting pirate matches, and those blocked by SPK were related to sites conducting unauthorised forex transactions.
The reason for blocking opposition sites: 'To protect national security'
Regarding the reasons for blocking domain names, 'Illegal and/or obscene content sharing' ranked first.
All domain names blocked due to 'Protecting national security and public order' were newspapers mentioned under the 'Opposition Sites' subtitle, which follows a line contrary to the government's ideology.
The most blocked news articles were those related to President Erdoğan and his family
When examining the distribution of at least 3,196 blocked news articles based on their topics, articles addressing allegations of irregularities involving President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his family ranked first. Access to a total of 1,770 news articles covering this topic was restricted.
Following that, there were 517 news articles discussing irregularities related to individuals and organisations close to the AKP.
Next in line were 402 news articles about President Erdoğan's former lawyer. This category included content about Mustafa Doğan İnal, who was once Erdogan's lawyer.
In the 'Company' and 'Individuals and Organizations Close to the AKP' categories, many of the mentioned individuals and companies not only have a close relationship with the government but also engage in partnerships with the state. Therefore, it is possible to consider news articles labelled under these categories as falling under the 'Government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and family' category.
Küçükçekmece 1st Criminal Court of Peace became the authority that blocked the most news articles
In the distribution of the authorities that blocked the most URLs in the 'News' category, Küçükçekmece 1st Criminal Peace Judgeship ranked first with 404 URLs. It was followed by Ankara West 2nd Criminal Peace Judgeship with 282 URLs and Istanbul Anatolian 3rd Criminal Peace Judgeship with 252 URLs.
The news articles were blocked on the grounds of 'violation of personal rights.'
The primary reason for blocking news articles was 'violation of personal rights.' Out of the 3,196 news articles blocked in 2022, 3,191 were blocked for 'violation of personal rights,' 3 for 'protecting national security and public order,' and 2 for 'expiration of time, with no importance left for the news to meet the criteria of 'truth and accuracy' at that time.'
President Erdoğan and his family topped the list of news articles blocked due to the violation of personal rights
When looking at the primary distribution of news blocked due to violating personal rights, it was observed that the most blocked news, with 1,770 articles, focused on the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his family. Following that, there were 515 news articles about individuals or organisations close to the AKP, and in third place, there were 402 articles about President Erdoğan's former lawyer, Mustafa Doğan İnal.
Blocking access to blocked news: Bilal Erdoğan example
In 2022, numerous access restriction decisions were made for news announcements about blocking a news article or post. However, a news article about Bilal Erdoğan, the son of President Erdoğan, and a contract awarded to one of his high school friends stood out among them.