Turks Take Internet Censorship Closer to the Mainstream

March 31st, 2014 by · Leave a Comment

Over the past few weeks, another country has decided that the solution to its problems is to clamp down on the internet. In Turkey it started with the blocking of a few major social media sites, i.e. Twitter and YouTube. But over the weekend it blossomed into full scale DNS hijacking, according to Renesys

Yep, for Turkish internet users the IP addresses of major global domain name servers run by the likes of Google and Level 3 now go to somewhere in Ankara, where offending sites are redirected to servers in the TurkTelecom domain.  The flash point seems to have been the leak and social media spreading of top secret plans related to potential intervention in Syria, but it’s clear that has not been the only thing happening on twitter that the government is pissed off at.

TRImage_102 Mar. 31But Turkey is not a long-term internet pariah like China or Iran or North Korea, nor is it a dictatorship that has often ruled with an iron hand anyway like Egypt or Libya or Syria trying to stop an actual revolution. It’s a NATO member and longtime EC-applicant, and has generally been a voice of moderation in the Islamic world — though not without its own sources of drama of course.

It remains to be seen if the completion of local elections over the weekend will lead to an easing in censorship, or whether the current government’s apparent victory emboldens them to go further down the rabbit hole.  While Turkey has long had one foot in Europe, international ownership of telecom and data assets in the country are still rather restricted.  Western telecoms that have expanded into Istanbul and beyond have done so via Turkish network partners, which makes it easier to find choke points than it might otherwise be.

But actually effectively blocking access to global social media will be a much more difficult task in Turkey regardless. Not only are the folks that run the ISPs there not likely to actively help shoot their own growing market in the foot, the people overall are more connected to the outside world and will quickly find ways to bypass such crude efforts.  They aren’t even at the stage of blocking internet proxies, let alone implementing deep packet inspection to block VPNs and such.  A

Even in China, the Great Firewall has innumerable leaks. You can only block so much even spending billions of dollars and hiring armies of people to manually censor homegrown social media.  When it comes to the spreading of information all you can ever do is slow it down. Turkey’s efforts are much less sophisticated so far, and thus are if anything just fanning the flames they are intended to quench.

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