News / Europe

Turkish Courts Slam Internet Curbs; Challenge Erdogan's Web Censorship

Demonstrators, members of the Turkish Youth Union, shout anti-government slogans during a protest against a Twitter ban, in Ankara, March 21, 2014.
Demonstrators, members of the Turkish Youth Union, shout anti-government slogans during a protest against a Twitter ban, in Ankara, March 21, 2014.
Rebuffing his government's efforts to censor parts of the Internet, Turkey's highest court Wednesday rejected Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's block of Twitter, saying it violates freedom of expression and individual rights.

The ruling comes in one of two legal challenges to the government's ban on certain social media sites. In a binding decision, the constitutional court ordered the government to "do what's necessary" to lift the ban.

It's not yet clear how, or if, the Erdogan government will respond.

With his broad, some say authoritarian, attempts to block social media,  Erdogan has embarked on a bold but difficult strategy that is causing alarm worldwide among Internet freedom activists.

"Erdogan’s strategy is to demonize social media," says cyber law scholar Zeynep Tufekci. "It is a strategy of placing social media outside the sacred sphere, as a disruption of family, as a threat to unity, as an outside blade tearing at the fabric of society."

Added Doug Madory of the web security firm Renesys: "They are quite serious about censoring the Internet and are willing to go to lengths to do so."

Both Twitter and Google, which owns YouTube, have protested Istanbul's actions.

State Department spokesperson Marie Harf called Turkey's actions an encroachment on free speech, saying the U.S. will "continue to urge the Turkish government to unblock its citizens' access now to YouTube, but also still to Twitter."

Erdogan's antipathy to the Internet has been brewing for years.

"There is now a scourge that is called Twitter," he told a 2013 rally. "To me, social media is the worst menace to society!"

He has called Facebook "immoral," YouTube "a devouring force," and has promised to "eradicate" Twitter.

And last month, in the lead-up to local elections, Erdogan attempted to make make good on that promise by banning Twitter.

Twitter Fights Back

Promising to "wipe out" the micro-blogging site, Turkish telecomm officials - at  Erdogan's orders - tried to simply block access to the site.

However, within hours Twitter users fought back, breaking through the ban by sending SMS messages, and later using Google's free Domain Name System, or DNS for short.
A photo posted on Twitter apparently shows a Google DNS address spray painted into a building in Turkey.A photo posted on Twitter apparently shows a Google DNS address spray painted into a building in Turkey.
x
A photo posted on Twitter apparently shows a Google DNS address spray painted into a building in Turkey.
A photo posted on Twitter apparently shows a Google DNS address spray painted into a building in Turkey.
DNS is the system that converts recognizable website domains, or names like "twitter.com", into the specific Internet address. Twitter activists quickly spread the word that by using Google's free DNS database of "8.8.8.8", users could easily workaround Turkey's block.

Nearly one week after the clumsy Twitter block, the Erdogan government announced a ban on YouTube, and strengthened the blocks for both sites.

Then the Erdogan government took it one step further.

In what analysts see as an unprecedented step for a government, it redirected web site searches accessed through Google to its own  sites.

"We have received several credible reports and confirmed with our own research that Google’s Domain Name System (DNS) service has been intercepted by most Turkish ISPs (Internet Service Providers)," Google software engineer Steve Carstensen posted on the company's blog

Google "hijacking"

Earl Zmijewky with Renesys liken that to "hijacking" Google's Internet address book.

"Now when Turkish users seemingly ask a Google DNS server for YouTube’s address," Zmijewsky wrote on the Renesys blog, "they get the IP address of a Turkish government site (195.175.254.2)."

What that means, in short, is that Turkish Internet users presently cannot necessarily trust that any website they are accessing - either via domain name or DNS - is in fact the actual website.

That's because Turkey's telecommunications providers have apparently intentionally scrambled the Internet's "phone book" of domain listings, routing traffic around sites unpopular with the government. 

"DNS tampering is done in a number of places, but this particular technique has not been used before on a national scale," said Renesys' Madory.

"China, for example, also does DNS tampering, but they do it by listening for DNS queries and then sending a forged bogus response to the client before the legitimate response arrives," Madory said. "They aren't hijacking IP address space to do it."

Among worst censors

For the moment, it doesn't appear that Turkey has implemented any tougher blocks than what's already in place.

Still, Internet free-speech activists continue sounding the alarm.

As this tweet points out, Turkey is now part of an elite club that censors two or more of the world's largest social media sites.

And while those blocks are likely to hold for a while, Jillian York, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Director of International Freedom of Expression, said there are still plenty of ways to evade Turkey's censorship.

"Existing Turkish Twitter users can send Tweets using SMS," she says. "Avea and Vodafone users should text START to 2444. Turkcell users can text START to 2555. Tor can also be used to bypass censorship."

Analyst Madory also recommends using the anonymizing program Tor, or something called a Virtual Private Network, or VPN.

Internet legal scholar Zeynep Tufekci said its likely both the government will keep trying to vilify and block social media, and that Turkish Internet activists will continue busting holes through the blocks.

"Erdogan likely still has enough supporters to win elections, but to continue to win, he needs to keep them off social media," she said. "His game is to scare them about all that comes from social media. He knows they’ll hear of the corruption tapes.

"But they are now associated with the same source that maligns housewives as porn-stars," she said.

Doug Bernard

dbjohnson+voanews.com

Doug Bernard covers cyber-issues for VOA, focusing on Internet privacy, security and censorship circumvention. Previously he edited VOA’s “Digital Frontiers” blog, produced the “Daily Download” webcast and hosted “Talk to America”, for which he won the International Presenter of the Year award from the Association for International Broadcasting. He began his career at Michigan Public Radio, and has contributed to "The New York Times," the "Christian Science Monitor," SPIN and NPR, among others. You can follow him @dfrontiers.

You May Like

Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving

Feasts centering on turkeys with an array of traditional sides and desserts are part of the holiday's traditions, which falls on the fourth Thursday in November More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: ali from: yılmaz
April 03, 2014 4:02 AM
Deal with your own problems.Russia,China and North Korea will give you the punishment you already deserve.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Paradei
X
Anush Avetisyan
November 26, 2014 10:57 PM
Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid