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Turkish officials reach for YouTube's joystick

Vids posted in Google's vault now tightly curbed by Ankara laws

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Google has given in to demands from Turkey to operate YouTube under a Turkish web domain, thus allowing the country's officials to patrol its content and the country's courts to throw out whatever is deemed objectionable.

As noted by Reuters, the move not only means that Ankara can exercise more rigid control over the material published on Mountain View's video-sharing website but that the company will now be required to pay taxes to the Turkish government.

For several years now, Turkey has repeatedly blocked and then reinstated YouTube over rows involving some of the content posted on the site, which has included a naughty clip of a Turkish politician in a hotel room with a female party member and a another vid that apparently flung insults at the country's founding father.

The testy relationship between Turkey and Google - which in the past has declined to remove contentious material from YouTube because it hadn't been found to infringe anyone's copyright - looks as though it's finally settling down after the search and ad giant agreed to concessions with government officials in Ankara.

YouTube blackouts in Turkey had been commonplace because the country's law states that prosecutors can seek a court-ordered shutdown of any website deemed liable to incite suicide, paedophilia, drug usage, obscenity, prostitution, or the aforementioned attacking of the memory of the republic's founding father.

From now on in, the site will operate under the "com.tr" domain, Ankara's transport and communications minister Binali Yildirim said.

He described the change as "an important development". The politician added that that Turkey had, over the years, made it clear to internet companies that if they wanted to operate in the country, they also needed to be "resident here".

What this means is that Google, which will now pay taxes in Turkey, will be subjected to implementing court decisions and agreeing to kill content deemed "objectionable", Yildirim said.

It's a move that will undoubtedly worry freedom of expression and human rights advocates.

Google said in a brief statement that "locally relevant content" would now be served up to netizens in Turkey who access the company's video-sharing site. It failed to mention the political opposition YouTube has faced in Turkey.

Reporters Without Borders has previously lambasted Turkey for claiming to be democratic while "arbitrarily censoring content" online. The same organisation released a statement on Tuesday about the current situation in Brazil, where YouTube videos have been blocked by Google following pressure from politicians in the Latin American country. ®

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