Zuckerberg Has Pointed to Defamation Laws Protecting Modern Turkey’s Atatürk

1Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has pointed to defamation laws protecting modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as an example of the “different legal and cultural environments” in which the world’s largest social network operates amid updates to the site’s community standards that inform users what types of posts are permissible.

“Every country has laws limiting certain expression, and these are often shaped by culture and history. For example, Holocaust denial is prohibited in Germany. Content that defames Atatürk is illegal in Turkey. In many Muslim countries, content regarded as blasphemous is banned as well,” Zuckerberg said on his own Facebook page on March 16.

“Governments sometimes order us to remove content they believe is illegal but that doesn’t violate our community standards. We provide information about these orders in our Global Government Requests Report,” he added.

Turkey is second in the world in terms of the amount of content restricted on Facebook due to government requests, following India, according to the report which was also released on March 16.

A slight increase in government requests for account data in the second half of 2014 was recorded, the report also said.

Some 3,624 pieces of content were restricted in Turkey between July and December 2014, a rise from 1,893 restricted pieces between June and December 2014 in the first half of the same year, while India topped the list with 5,832 pieces restricted, the report by the world’s largest Internet social network showed.

165 requests for 278 accounts

Facebook revealed that a total of 165 requests, concerning 278 users/accounts, were filed by the Turkish government to restrict in the second half of 2014. The report stated that Facebook disclosed at least some data following 70.91 percent of the requests.

“We restricted access to items primarily reported by the Turkish courts [and the Access Providers Union] and the Telecommunications Authority under local law 5651, which covers a range of offenses including defamation of [republican founder Mustafa Kemal] Atatürk, personal rights violations, and personal privacy,” read a part of the report.

“Many of the requests sprang from local laws that prohibit criticism of Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, or the president or the Turkish state,” the Washington Post reported in a recent story, referring to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

In the first half of 2014, the Turkish government made 153 requests concerning 249 users/accounts, while the Internet social network disclosed at least some data in 60.78 percent of the requests filed, which they were required to do so by law. A total of 1,893 pieces were restricted between January and June 2014.

Requests for account data increased to 35,051 in the second half of 2014 from 34,946 in the first half, with requests from countries such as India rising and those from others, including United States and Germany, falling.

Facebook said it restricted 9,707 pieces of content for violating local laws, 11 percent more than in the first half, with access restricted to 5,832 pieces in India and 3,624 in Turkey.

Challenging ‘unreasonable’ requests

“We will continue to scrutinize each government request and push back when we find deficiencies. We will also continue to push governments around the world to reform their surveillance practices in a way that maintains the safety and security of their people while ensuring their rights and freedoms are protected,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, wrote in a blog post.

Bickert said Facebook challenges requests that appear to be “unreasonable” or “overboard,” and if a country requests content be removed because it is illegal, Facebook may restrict access only in that country.

The technology industry has pushed for greater transparency on government data requests, seeking to shake off concerns about their involvement in vast, surreptitious surveillance programs revealed by former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and Google last year began publishing details about the number of government requests for data they receive.

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