2017 block of Wikipedia in Turkey

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The Turkish Wikipedia logo with a censor bar above the text. This version of the logo has been in use since the ban.
A graph for pageviews of Turkish Wikipedia from February to May 2017 shows a great drop of roughly 80 % immediately after the block was imposed. Wikipedia's content being open, alternative websites continue to provide the information to the public.

On 29 April 2017, Turkish authorities blocked online access to Wikipedia in all languages across Turkey.[1][2] The restrictions were imposed by Turkish Law No. 5651,[3] due to the article on state-sponsored terrorism, where Turkey was described as a sponsor country for ISIS and Al-Qaeda, which Turkish courts viewed as a public manipulation of mass media. Despite multiple requests by Turkish Information and Communication Technologies Authority, Wikipedia refused to edit the article to comply with Turkish law. Wikipedia currently remains blocked in Turkey.


Some countries have faulted Turkey for funding Islamist rebel groups in Syria, including al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, the al-Nusra Front.[4][5] In October 2014, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE had “poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Al-Assad.”[4]

The block occurred on April 30, 2017, two weeks after the Turkish constitutional referendum, which was held on April 16.

On 25 April, Turkey conducted several airstrikes on YPG, YPJ, and PKK facilities in both Syria and Iraq (Sinjar). 40 militants, including five Peshmerga soldiers, were killed at Iraq's Sinjar Mountains, and more than 20 YPG and YPJ fighters were killed on Syria's Mount Karakoc.[6] The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) threatened to withdraw from the ongoing operation to capture Raqqa if the United States didn't take measures to stop Turkey's airstrikes against the group.[7] In response, the US began to patrol the border alongside SDF troops in order to force a ceasefire between its two allies.[8][9]

On 26 April, continuing the 2016–17 Turkish purges, 1,009 police officers were detained based on accusations of being secretly involved with the Gülenist network within the Turkish police force.[10] 9,100 officers have been suspended.[11][12] On 29 April, 3,974 more civil servants were dismissed. Media outlets and reporters have been heavily targeted; 190 news organisations have been banned and at least 120 journalists have been imprisoned.[13] Together with the ban of Wikipedia and television dating shows, The New York Times described the moves as "an expand[ing] crackdown on dissent and free expression."[14]

Legal context

Law No. 5651, known as the Internet Act (IA), was enacted on 4 May 2007.[15] The purpose of this law was described by the now-defunct Presidency of Telecommunication and Communication as follows: "There are two reasons for the law to be brought. The first reason: to determine the liability and the responsibility of collective use providers, access providers, location providers, and content providers, which are the main actors of the Internet. The other reason is to determine the procedures and fundamentals related to the specific crimes committed over the Internet and fighting these through content, location and access providers."[16] More recently, the law has been used to censor individuals, journalists and the media.[17] At least 127,000 websites are estimated to have been blocked in Turkey, along with another 95,000 individual web pages.[13]


On the morning of 29 April 2017, following news from Turkey Blocks that all language versions of Wikipedia had been blocked in Turkey,[1] several websites published articles about the event.[18] Reuters and the BBC reported that the Turkish authorities had blocked all access to Wikipedia in the country beginning at 5:00 GMT. Turkey's Information and Communication Technologies Authority simply stated: "After technical analysis and legal consideration based on the Law Nr. 5651 [governing the internet], an administrative measure has been taken for this website."[19][2] Users reported that they could only access Wikipedia using tools such as private VPNs.[20][21]

Rationale and demands

Voice of America reported that Turkish media had explained the block was a result of "terror-related content."[22] Referring to an email statement made by the Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications Ministry, Turkish News source Anadolu Agency reported that the block was due to its articles and comments describing Turkey's alleged involvement with terror groups. The ministry said, "Instead of coordinating against terrorism, it has become part of an information source which is running a smear campaign against Turkey in the international arena."[23]

After court objection by Bilgi University professor Yaman Akdeniz, the Ankara 2nd Civil Court of Peace said that the causes of the block were the following articles:[24]

On 11 May 2017 Turkish Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan cited Wikipedia's featuring "content creating a perception that Turkey is supporting terrorist organizations" as a reason for the block.[25]

According to a BBC report, the Hurriyet daily newspaper said that Ankara had asked Wikipedia to remove the offending content, adding that the access ban would be lifted if Wikipedia met Turkey's demands.[2] Later in the day, the provisional "administrative measure" was replaced by a court order, issued by the Ankara 1st Criminal Court of Peace, blocking Wikipedia as a "protective measure."[1]

According to a report by the Anadolu Agency the country "has a history of demanding that international websites take such steps as having a representative office in the country, complying with principles of international law, implementing court rulings, and not being part of any smear campaign or operation in Turkey".[23]

On 3 May 2017, the Wikimedia Foundation submitted an objection to the block to Ankara’s 1st Penal Court of Peace,[26] but it was rejected by the court on 5 May.[27] The ruling stated that the country-wide block would continue as the "offending" pages had not been removed. The head of Turkey's Information and Communication Technologies Authority, Omer Fatih Sayan, explained: "It is not possible to open access to Wikipedia so long as the decisions are not implemented."[28] The same day, the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) published the following official statement:[29]

  • Despite all the efforts, the content that falsely claims Turkey's support for terrorist organizations was not removed from Wikipedia.
  • This content was not allowed to be edited with accurate information.
  • Since Wikipedia broadcasts in HTTPS protocol, it is technically impossible to filter by individual URL's to block only relevant content.
  • Therefore, the entire Wikipedia content had to be filtered.
  • Wikipedia editors must do what is necessary for this and similar content.

Jimmy Wales' invitation withdrawn

On 2 May, Istanbul Municipality removed Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, from the guest list at the World Cities Expo event on smart cities to be held in the city from 15 to 18 May, making the following announcement: "Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales was disinvited from the ‘World Cities Expo Event’ and the decision has been communicated to him. Respectfully announced to the public."[30] Wales had hoped to attend despite the Wikipedia block, commenting: "I am looking forward to the visit. Istanbul is one of my favorite cities."[31][32]


Republican People's Party parliamentarians criticized the block, with Eren Erdem stating that the ban puts "Turkey in line with North Korea" and Barış Yarkadaş calling it "censorship and a violation of the right to access information."[33][34] In a tweet made on the first day of the block, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales expressed his support for those criticizing the decision as censorship, saying "Access to information is a fundamental human right. Turkish people I will always stand with you to fight for this right."[35] [33][20][36] The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, states that it is committed to keeping the site available in Turkey and pushing for a "judicial review" of the decision.[37]

NDTV said that the move caused strong reactions on social media against the decision to deny access to "one of the world's most popular websites."[38]

Over 6 months after the access ban, Wikimedia Foundation Communication Director Juliet Barbara published an article about the efforts to remove the access ban.[39]

Alternative for content access

Furthermore, activists have created a copy of Turkish Wikipedia on the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) − a new way of addressing web content which the Turkish government can't block as it uses decentralized, resilient, open source technology.[40][41][42] The Turkish- and English-language "pirate" website TurkceWiki.org, which is unaffiliated with the Wikimedia Foundation, joins various "Wikipedia mirrors" with content identical with that published by Wikipedia.[43] The mirror site, nevertheless, omitted the complained of "offending" sections from its mirror.[44]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Wikipedia blocked in Turkey". Turkey Blocks. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c "Turkish authorities block Wikipedia without giving reason". BBC News. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017. 
  4. ^ a b "Gulf allies and 'Army of Conquest". Al-Ahram Weekly. 28 May 2015. 
  5. ^ Kim Sengupta (12 May 2015). "Turkey and Saudi Arabia alarm the West by backing Islamist extremists the Americans had bombed in Syria". The Independent. 
  6. ^ "Turkey may hit YPG in Syria "all of a sudden": President Erdoğan". Hürriyet Daily News. 30 April 2017. Retrieved 2017-05-08. 
  7. ^ "YPG threatens to withdraw from Raqqa ops amid Turkish attacks". NRT TV. 28 April 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2017. 
  8. ^ Bilginsoy, Zeynep1; Deeb, Sarah El (29 April 2017). "Turkey, U.S. move armored vehicles onto either side of Syrian border". CP24. Retrieved 29 April 2017. 
  9. ^ "Turkey attacks Rojava to impede anti-ISIS operations in Raqqa: Western SDF volunteer - ARA News". ARA News. 30 April 2017. Retrieved 30 April 2017. 
  10. ^ Kingsley, Patrick (26 April 2017). "Over 1,000 People Are Detained in Raids in Turkey". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 29 April 2017. 
  11. ^ "Purges en Turquie : plus de 9 000 policiers suspendus". Le Monde (in French). 26 April 2017. ISSN 1950-6244. Retrieved 29 April 2017. 
  12. ^ "Turkey fires 3,900 in second post-referendum purge". Reuters. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017. 
  13. ^ a b Kingsley, Patrick (June 10, 2017). "Turks Click Away, but Wikipedia Is Gone". The New York Times. Retrieved June 13, 2017. 
  14. ^ Kingsley, Patrick (30 April 2017). "Turkey Purges 4,000 More Officials, and Blocks Wikipedia". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 30 April 2017. 
  15. ^ "Turkey: Law No. 5651 on Regulating Broadcasting in the Internet and Fighting Against Crimes Committed through Internet Broadcasting". WIPO. Retrieved 29 April 2017. 
  16. ^ Presidency of Telecommunication, communication, PTC. "Information about the regulations of the content of the Internet". PTC. Retrieved 22 March 2014. [dead link]
  17. ^ Yaman, Akdeniz; Kerem, Altiparmak (November 2008). Internet : restricted access : a critical assessment of Internet content regulation and censorship in Turkey (PDF). Imaj Kitabevi & Imaj Yayinevi. ISBN 9789758752652. OCLC 488655521. 
  18. ^ "Turkey blocks Wikipedia as threat to national security". Jurist. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  19. ^ "Turkey blocks access to Wikipedia". Reuters. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017. 
  20. ^ a b "Türkei blockiert Wikipedia-Zugang" (in German). Deutsche Welle. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017. 
  21. ^ "Internet-Zensur unter Erdogan: Türkei blockiert Wikipedia". FOCUS Online (in German). 29 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017. 
  22. ^ "Monitors: Turkey Blocks Access to Wikipedia". VOA. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017. 
  23. ^ a b "Turkey: Wikipedia blocked for disregarding the law". Anadolu Agency. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017. 
  24. ^ Yazıcıoğlu, Yıldız (3 May 2017). "Wikipedia Türkiye İçin 'Sansür' Uygulayacak mı?". Amerikanın Sesi (in Turkish). Retrieved 6 May 2017. 
  25. ^ "Turkey warned Wikipedia over content, demands it open office: minister". Reuters. 11 May 2017. Retrieved 14 May 2017. 
  26. ^ "Wikipedia takes the first legal step against Turkey's ban". Birgün Daily. 3 May 2017. Retrieved 4 May 2017. 
  27. ^ "Wikipedia itirazı reddedildi". Ensonhaber (in Turkish). 5 May 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2017. 
  28. ^ LeFebvre, Rob (5 May 2017). "Turkish court backs censorship of Wikipedia". engadget. Retrieved 13 May 2017. 
  29. ^ BTK [@BTKbasin] (5 May 2017). "BTK official statement on twitter" (Tweet) – via Twitter. 
  30. ^ "Days after banning Wikipedia, Turkey disinvites founder from Istanbul expo". Turkey Purge. 2 May 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2017. 
  31. ^ Can, Ahmet (2 May 2017). "Wikimedia Foundation appeals court ruling blocking Wikipedia in Turkey". Hürriyet Daily. Retrieved 3 May 2017. 
  32. ^ "Istanbul cancels invite for Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales after ban". Deutsche Welle. 2 May 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2017. 
  33. ^ a b News, ABC (29 April 2017). "Turkish court formally blocks access to Wikipedia". ABC News. Retrieved 29 April 2017. 
  34. ^ Bilginsoy, Zeynep. "Access to Wikipedia blocked by government in Turkey". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 29 April 2017. 
  35. ^ Wales, Jimmy [@jimmy_wales] (29 April 2017). "Jimmy Wales' response to Wikipedia ban in Turkey" (Tweet) – via Twitter. 
  36. ^ Wales, Jimmy [@jimmy_wales] (29 April 2017). "Jimmy Wales on Twitter" (Tweet) – via Twitter. 
  37. ^ "Turkey blocks Wikipedia over an alleged 'smear campaign'". Engadget. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017. 
  38. ^ "Turkish Authorities Block Access To Wikipedia: Monitor". NDTV. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2017. 
  39. ^ Barbara, Juliet. "Six months later: People of Turkey still denied access to Wikipedia". Wikimedia Vakfı. Retrieved 7 Nov 2017. 
  40. ^ "Turkey Can't Block This Copy of Wikipedia". Observer. 10 May 2017. Retrieved 14 May 2017. 
  41. ^ "Wikipedia'nın Engellenemeyen Türkçe Sürümü Yayına Girdi!". Webtekno (in Turkish). Retrieved 14 May 2017. 
  42. ^ "Wikipedia'nın 'Engellenemeyen Türkçe Sürümünü' Çıkardılar!". www.entertusu.net (in Turkish). Retrieved 14 May 2017. 
  43. ^ "'Pirate' Wikipedia launched in Turkey after access ban - SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY". Hurriyetdailynews.com. 2011-09-13. Retrieved 2017-09-13. 
  44. ^ See [1] and [2]

External links

  • European Councils's Venice Commission's Opinion on Law No. 5651
  • Wikimedia Foundation urges Turkish authorities to restore access to Wikipedia, Response by the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF)
  • Response to 2017 ban in Turkey, Response by the Wikimedia community that complements the WMF response
  • Project on Hindi Wikipedia where Wiki-contributions on Turkey were made showing solidarity with Turkish Wikipedians
  • TurkceWikipedia.org – A "pirate" website mirroring Wikipedia's Turkish- and English-language content
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