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Turkey blocked access to Wikipedia after it refused to remove content

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The government claimed that the website was trying to ‘smear’ the country

Expatriate Turks React To Referendum Result Photo by Michele Tantussi/Getty Images

Turkey blocked access to Wikipedia on Saturday, according to Reuters, using a law designed to grant authorities the ability restrict content the country considers obscene or a threat to national security.

Access to the online encyclopedia appears to have been blocked at 8AM local time on Saturday morning, according to monitoring group Turkey Blocks, a project to “identify and validate reports of internet mass-censorship in Turkey.” It explained that the loss is consistent with “internet filters used to censor content in the country.”

The country used an administrative order to block access to the website, based on Law No. 5651, which grants the government broad authority to regulate online content. According to the state-run media outlet Anadolu Agency, Turkey’s Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications Ministry said access has been blocked because the website hosted articles and comments that claimed Turkey was coordinating with terrorist groups. “Instead of coordinating against terrorism,” the Ministry says, “it has become part of an information source which is running a smear campaign against Turkey in the international arena.”

According to the Ministry, the government asked Wikipedia to remove the content, which refused, leading to the ban. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales posted his response on Twitter, stating that “access to information is a fundamental human right.”

In recent years, Turkey has cracked down on sites such as WikiLeaks, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, typically citing national security as a reason. This latest development will likely spark renewed concerns from human rights groups over increased censorship in the country. According to the BBC, users on social media in Turkey voiced their concerns, wondering if it was an attempt to suppress criticism of the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who recently won a controversial referendum that expanded the powers of his office.