The government of Turkey has struck again in imposing online censorship, this time by blocking or restricting Dropbox, Github, Microsoft OneDrive, and Google Drive in a bid to stem the spread of emails concerning President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, who is also a government minister.
RedHack, a hacking group, leaked almost 60,000 emails, or 17GB of data, related to the government by hacking Erdogan and Albayrak’s email accounts. The anti-government hackers leaked the data, which goes back some 16 years, in order to detail how the authorities were using pro-government trolls to target opposition media or critical talk online. The hackers also demanded the release of dissidents from prison who are being held without trial.
Instead of meeting these demands, the Turkish government moved to ban document sharing services like Dropbox at the ISP level, to ban media coverage of the hack, and to demand Twitter suspend RedHack’s account (which it did). By blocking the likes of Dropbox, the Erdoğan administration hopes it will cut out the dissemination of this damning evidence.
The controversy had been brewing for weeks but Turkish internet users first starting noticing this latest block over the weekend and took to social media to criticize the government and draw attention to the issue.
— Turkey Blocks (@TurkeyBlocks) October 8, 2016
As of this writing, the blocks are still in place on most of the sites but restrictions on Google Drive have been relaxed. The Register reports that Google complied with a takedown request regarding the leaked emails. Many of the larger ISPs are complying with the block but some smaller local ISPs across the country have flown under the radar; their customers can still get on Dropbox.
Dropbox has not commented. Turkey Blocks, a website that catalogs internet freedom and censorship in the country, added that there is still no official documentation from the government that outlines its reason for the blocks, as is usually the case.
Turkey has a history of censoring the web when a political crisis erupts. This summer during the coup that attempted to overthrow the government, social media sites were blacked out or throttled. A similar incident occurred after a terrorist attack at an Istanbul airport in June. These censorship practices have earned the Turkish government the nickname, “bastion of Internet censorship.”