Turkish President Abdullah Gul [BBC profile] on Tuesday approved legislation to heighten Internet restrictions, granting the country's telecommunications authority the ability to block websites or remove content without the court's approval. While Gul and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [BBC profile] continue to reaffirm the law's purpose of protecting online privacy, many have waged harsh criticism against the legislation, calling [New Yorker report] it harmful, Draconian, and the latest strike against freedom of expression in Turkey. Erdogan was quoted [WSJ report] as saying the reform will help eliminate a "parallel state" within the bureaucracy that he believes is responsible for initiating a corruption case against his government. Protesters, reminiscent of last spring's violent demonstrations in Gezi Park, took to the streets [Occupy report] again on Tuesday night in opposition to the Internet overhaul. In addition to stricter government oversight, the law also requires service providers to collect and retain individual data for up to two years.
Internet freedom remains a controversial issue around the world. Last year a Canadian human rights group unveiled research [JURIST report] indicating that a number of nations are using American-made Internet surveillance technology which could be used to censor content and track their citizens. The UN Human Rights Council in July 2012 passed its first-ever resolution to protect the free speech [JURIST report] of individuals online. The resolution was approved by all 47 members of the council, including China and Cuba, which have been criticized for limiting Internet freedom. Also in 2012 China adopted stricter rules [JURIST report] on both Internet providers and users. Last November Russia passed a law [JURIST report] giving the nation the authority to completely block access to certain websites. Last July the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution [JURIST report] intended to protect Internet speech.