Turkey lifts ban on YouTube

March 12, 2007

News:  A Turkish court lifted its ban on access to YouTube in Turkey after YouTube removed the videos, apparently posted by Greek users of YouTube, that had depicted or insulted the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, as a homosexual.  According to a Southeast European Times article, “Under Turkish law, it is forbidden to ‘insult Turkishness’ or to slander Ataturk, whose name means ‘Father of the Turks.'”

“‘The internet is an international phenomenon, and while technology can bring great opportunity and access to information globally, it can also present new and unique cultural challenges,’ YouTube said in a statement after the ban was imposed. ‘We respect the authorities in Turkey and are committed to working with them to resolve this. We should note, however, that the video in question is no longer on the site.'”

Analysis:  The international dimensions of this dispute make this a difficult case.  Obviously, in the U.S., where we have the freedom of speech, name calling and mere insults (absent defamation or a very hard to prove category of “fighting words”) are protected under the First Amendment.  In Turkey, however, that appears not to be the case, at least when the target of the derision is the Ataturk.  Because YouTube is available on the Internet around the globe, it will face challenges in implementing a consistent policy on allowing or removing certain clips that some may view as offensive.  For example, just last week, Ann Coulter not so subtly referred to presidential candidate John Edwards as a “faggot,” and that video is still available on YouTube.  In some respects, having the video available for public scrutiny seems like a better antidote here to Coulter’s slur because the video exposes Coulter in a way that a written news report could not.