Not even a week ago, the Turkish government issued a 12-hour ban on social media outlets, VPNs, and even Tor. The government in Turkey implemented various forms of censorship years ago. So, a ban itself was hardly a surprise. News outlets then reported that the government announced a permanent ban on Tor. Internet Service Providers announced that they received official messages from the government. The messages ordered a full prevention of the Tor network. Weeks after the infamous Tor block, news agencies reported that the Turkish government started investigating 10,000—or more—internet users.
Turkey Blocks, an organization that monitors the downtime of networks and websites, confirmed the Tor and social media ban. Their tests and status pages made headlines worldwide. Now, after the majority of the censorship news died down, news outlets worldwide—again—began publishing front-page news. NDTV, for instance, reported that Turkey announced the investigation of 10,000 people suspected “of terror-related activity on the internet or posting comments on social media insulting government officials.”
Turkey, Tor, and Social Media:
The investigation is, according to the Turkish Interior Ministry via a multitude of sources, part of a “fight against terrorism, which continues with determination everywhere, including on social networks.” The state-run Anadolu Agency reported that between December 19 and December 26, the government arrested 1,096 suspects. According to the Interior Ministry, these types of mass-arrests started six months ago, but little detail beyond that emerged.
The Anadolu Agency reported:
A ministry statement said that 1,096 suspected members of the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) were detained on Dec. 19-26. The government arrested 426 of them. FETO, led by U.S.-based Fetullah Gulen, is accused of organizing, planning, and staging the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey that martyred 248 people and injured more than 2,200 others. Ankara has also said FETO is behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
SecurityAffairs then reported that of the 10,000 reportedly probed by the Turkish government, 3,000 already faced questions about their online activity. Breitbart wrote that the Turkish government pursued alleged associates of Fethullah Gulenwell before the recent assassination.
Tensions with Russia:
The Interior Ministry’s statement, sources explained, failed to clarify any specifics regarding the announcement. Since then, though, social media users and various websites speculated that the 10,000-person investigation spawned from the increased tensions between Turkey and Russia. Following the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, the first darknet, Tor, VPN, and social media bans fell into place. That clearly increased tensions. Combined with the recent release of a new “ISIS propaganda video,” hell potentially broke loose. TurkeyBlocks, again, confirmed that social media either slowed to a halt or simply became unreasonably slow.
This most recent time, according to the TurkeyBlocks blog post, the government attempted a new method of blocking VPNs. Turkey, months ago, banned VPNs and Tor to prevent bypassing Internet censorship and access to the darknet or deepweb. Their rollout seemed to progress much slower than originally planned, resulting in these types of events.