Turkey blocks Web site over insults to Ataturk

SAN FRANCISCO Tue Mar 25, 2008 9:10am EDT

In this file photo a protester holds a sign as he stands behind a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of secular and modern Turkey, during a rally to support the ban on headscarves and to protest against the government in Ankara February 9, 2008. The Turkish government has been blocking access nationwide to Slide Inc and its popular multimedia Web software after a local court ruled the site let users post photos and stories insulting the Turkish republic's founder, the company said on Monday. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

In this file photo a protester holds a sign as he stands behind a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of secular and modern Turkey, during a rally to support the ban on headscarves and to protest against the government in Ankara February 9, 2008. The Turkish government has been blocking access nationwide to Slide Inc and its popular multimedia Web software after a local court ruled the site let users post photos and stories insulting the Turkish republic's founder, the company said on Monday.

Credit: Reuters/Umit Bektas

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The Turkish government has been blocking access nationwide to Slide Inc and its popular multimedia Web software after a local court ruled the site let users post photos and stories insulting the Turkish republic's founder, the company said on Monday.

Slide joins Web services such as YouTube, Facebook and MySpace that have been barred by countries including Turkey, Pakistan, Thailand and China for offering Web services that violate national laws restricting political speech.

Turkish law forbids insults to "Turkishness," state institutions or insults to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey in the 1920s and 1930s. Famous authors, academics and political figures have faced prosecution.

John Duncan, Slide's general counsel, said the company started getting complaints in February from Turkish users of Slide services shortly after a court ordered Turkish Telecom, the nation's Internet service provider, to block Slide Web sites.

The order appeared to have been handed down on January 24 by a court in Civril, Turkey, Duncan said. Civril is located about 185 miles southwest of the capital of Ankara.

Slide officials said they never received formal notice of the action against the company. The company said it had been unable to identify the offending material but that Turkish Telecom had complied with the court's order.

Duncan said Slide's policy was to comply to remove offensive content from its site.

"It is not exactly clear to me what the substance of this material was. We support free speech, but we take down specifically insulting material. We might well take this down" if it could learn what items had provoked the action, he said.

While initially only the Slide.com home page was affected, in recent weeks the blockage has grown to cover most applications on Slide's site and inside Facebook, where Slide is the most popular independent provider of applications.

A translation of the Turkish language court order obtained by the company accuses Slide of "harboring pictures and articles that are considered to be insulting to Ataturk," the San Francisco-based company said on its blog.

Slide said it has hired local representatives in Turkey who have contacted the national government to try to resolve the issue. Meanwhile, the company said it is working on alternative ways for Turkish users to reach its site.

The San Francisco-based privately-owned company offers a popular online program to create picture slide shows aimed at users of social networks such as Facebook and MySpace.

Slide had around 150 million users worldwide in January, according to market research firm comScore. This tally does not include Facebook users.

Its "Top Friends" list is the most popular application on Facebook, where it has more than a 1.8 million active users.

The Facebook social network phenomenon has caught fire in the past year in Turkey, which is the No. 4 ranked country in terms of active Facebook users behind the United States, Britain and Canada.

As of February, Facebook counted around 2.85 million users in Turkey. Slide estimates that around 50 percent of Facebook users worldwide use its services and that the ban in Turkey affects hundreds of thousands of the country's Web users.

(Editing by Vicki Allen)

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