Turkey’s president Abdullah Gul signed a controversial bill on Tuesday that allows Turkish authorities to block websites without a court order.
The law will enable Turkish officials to monitor telecommunications and ISPs, allowing the government to block online content it deems illegal or to be in violation of someone’s privacy. Under the new law, ISPs must keep records of user activities for two years and hand them over to authorities.
The move has ignited a firestorm on social media, and caused the president to lose nearly 80,000 Twitter followers overnight, according to an AP report.
Gul said he signed the legislation after officials agreed to amend two disputed articles. According to Reuters, the law will allow specific content on a website to be blocked, rather than blocking the entire website, and will replace prison sentences with fines for violations.
Turkey already had strict Internet laws, and was the top country on Google’s request to remove content list, Reuters said. Its new law has been crticized by the European Union, which Turkey has hoped to join for decades.
Some Turks are concerned that this law will be mismanaged by the government, which has been rocked by a corruption and bribery inquiry in December.
It is believed that Gul signed the legislation in a “tactical political calculation to amend the bill but approve it to maintain support from the ruling party, which will likely determine his own political future,” the Wall Street Journal said. The decision has been criticized by the European Union, which Turkey has been vying to join for decades.
It remains to be seen if the law could extend to web hosts operating in Turkey, who may be required to cooperate with ISPs in handing over user records.
Elsewhere in Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed the creation of a separate European communications network earlier this week that would disallow data from passing through US based servers.