MediaEval censorship

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I'm spending the week at LREC 2012 in Istanbul, and the presentation that I just listened to was Maria Eskevich, Gareth J.F. Jones, Martha Larson and Roeland Ordelman, "Creating a Data Collection for Evaluating Rich Speech Retrieval":

We describe the development of a test collection for the investigation of speech retrieval beyond identification of relevant content. This collection focuses on satisfying user information needs for queries associated with specific types of speech acts. The collection is based on an archive of the Internet video from Internet video sharing platform (, and was provided by the MediaEval benchmarking initiative. A crowdsourcing approach was used to identify segments in the video data which contain speech acts, to create a description of the video containing the act and to generate search queries designed to refind this speech act. We describe and reflect on our experiences with crowdsourcing this test collection using the Amazon Mechanical Turk platform. We highlight the challenges of constructing this dataset, including the selection of the data source, design of the crowdsouring task and the specification of queries and relevant items.

The paper was interesting, and it's worth learning more about the MediaEval Benchmarking Initiative, and the 2011 MediaEval Rich Speech Retrieval Task in particular.  But the thing that caught my attention in this case was the reference to, since I happened to notice (following a link yesterday in a New York Times story) that is banned in Turkey.

The wikipedia article mentions that "As of April 2011, was blocked by Turkey", but doesn't explain why.

Here's the message that appears in place of the banned videos:

Does anyone know the history of this ban?


  1. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 7:03 am

    Wikipedia has a fair amount of information on Turkey's history of blocking YouTube; I would guess (but don't actually know) that the reasons for blocking Blip are similar.

  2. Jon Weinberg said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 8:27 am

    Turkey has from time to time blocked a whole bunch of sites carrying user-generated content, including Youtube, Vimeo, Google Sites,, and Blogspot. It seems likely that Turkey for technical reasons finds it easier or more convenient to block an entire service rather than the individual offending videos, sites, or posts on that service that were thought by the Turkish regulators to have the potential to relate to areas including those covered by Turkey's Law 5651: encouraging suicide; sexual exploitation of children; facilitating narcotics use; supply of unhealthy substances; obscenity; online gambling; or "anti-Ataturk" material.

  3. Dan T. said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 10:36 am

    In America, you can write obnoxious stuff about George Washington or the other Founding Fathers all you want, but Turkey is more thin-skinned about criticism of their historical hero Ataturk.

  4. Lugubert said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 10:51 am

    I'm afraid the current reason might be the fate of Armenians in Turkey 1915-1918. It seems that is it illegal under Turkish law to name the events as "genocide", and it might well be that there is material on the blocked site that uses that label, for example commenting on France's handling of the law that made denial of any Armenian genocide a crime.

  5. Ø said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 10:58 am

    crowdsouring, hmm?

  6. Dan T. said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 11:26 am

    How are international services supposed to deal with the possibly contradictory laws of different countries, such as Turkey making it illegal to call an event a "genocide" and France making it illegal to deny that that same event was "genocide"? The only way to comply with both laws would be to ban all mentions of the event at all, which would be unacceptable to a site like Wikipedia that intends to be a comprehensive encyclopedia.

  7. Andy Averill said,

    May 24, 2012 @ 11:52 am

    @Dan T, surely there's a middle course? It ought to be possible to write about the event without getting into the question of whether the label "genocide" applies.

    In any event, wholesale blocking of popular websites like YouTube seems a pretty extreme reaction to concerns that somebody, somewhere, might want to discuss topics the government doesn't approve of.

    And anyway, I thought Turkey was trying to get into the EU. Would this kind of censorship be allowed?

  8. Peter said,

    May 25, 2012 @ 4:10 am

    @Andy A. Is a middle course really desirable though? Just average a bunch of unreasonable demands? If you should require shocking and distasteful analogies to dissuade you from the notion that a "middle course" is always good, I invite you to imagine a hypothetical compromise with a certain historical-figure-who-shall-not-be-named-in-comment-threads, along with the obvious objections from a certain ethnic group to this hypothetical partial solution.

  9. Andy Averill said,

    May 25, 2012 @ 11:15 am

    @peter, I'm not speaking of a political or ideological middle course, just a logical one. To wit, that calling X genocide, and denying that X is genocide, do not exhaust what one can say on the subject of X. Speaking as a historian, in fact, I can say the word "genocide" is usually not terribly helpful in any objective discussion.

  10. Peter said,

    May 25, 2012 @ 9:57 pm

    @Andy A. I will concede that you know more than me when it comes to writing about history. Yelling "Genocide!" and "We didn't do nuffing!" back and forth is probably not the height of scholarship. That said, Wikipedia can't very well ignore everything that has been written about all those dead Armenians just to please a few censors.

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