Turkey’s hacking community will continue its quest of online disruption despite the country’s constitutional court lifting a controversial ban on Twitter. The embargo was deemed unlawful on April 3 but a block on video-sharing site YouTube remains. RedHack, an Anonymous-affiliated group, tells Red Herring that its online protest will continue to grow.
Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the Twitter ban on March 21 after leaked tapes showed him ordering his son Bilal to dump millions in cash ahead of a corruption trial. Another tape recorded AKP (the Justice and Development Party) ministers mulling over an invasion of neighbouring Syria. In June of last year, Twitter was used to coordinate anti-government protests at Istanbul’s Gezi Park, where 15 people were killed. Erdogan himself has called social media “the worse menace to society.” Turkey provides Twitter one of the company’s biggest audiences, with 12 million users from a population of 81 million.
However, despite the accusations and violence, the AKP swept to victory at local elections on March 31. Buoyed by the results, Erdogan told supporters in the capital, Ankara, that his enemies would “pay the price.” Most agree that it was a warning to RedHack, whose operatives will not speak in person but only in VPN chatrooms.
The group, formed in 1997 under a Marxist-Leninist banner, has scored several victories during the latest round of scandals. On March 28, it hacked Turkey’s Telecommunications Directorate amid the Twitter ban, broadcasting a message that read: “You forgot the coordinator of everything while calculating things. The ban is meant to be banned.” Recent hacks have also included publishing minibar bills and subscriptions to adult websites for Islamist AKP ministers.
“RedHack was formed…to stand against the brutality of the fascist Turkish State and to stand shoulder to shoulder with the oppressed people,” writes one editor. “We aim to change the system in Turkey along with the struggle in the real life as well as cyber.
“We have a long way to go,” the editor, who did not want to be named, adds. “Struggles in real life have gained a lot over the years. And our infiltrations have given hope to the people when we have surfaced the gov’s corruptions and took direct actions against the government sites when there was a public outcry about the agenda at the time.”
RedHack has been listed a security threat by the Turkish authorities, and its members remain anonymous. “What differs [the core group of] RedHack from any other hacker group is that what happened to [Turkey’s] socialists and communists in the past. They disappear, got killed and tortured in terrible ways. That’s what will happen [to us].”
Erdogan’s Twitter ban was widely decried by the international community. But one RedHack editor notes the hypocrisy of the U.S., comparing RedHack’s work in Turkey with that of WikiLeaks: “The U.S. Government tried to construct a picture of an organization which targets “the national security interests”. Erdogan reacted like this, he saw the Gezi protest…as a coup attempt. And if 99% of the media is showing that, nobody is questioning [it].”
RedHack, and many others, have accused the AKP of monopolizing Turkey’s media. Last week state-run outlet Anadolu was highly criticized for biased reporting by liberal newspaper Taraf. Startups and companies have also slammed the AKP’s ban on social media, claiming that it dissuades investment and makes brand management tough.
And the hacker collective claims it will continue pursuing corruption in Turkey, and alerting the world to what it feels are injustices meted out on the Turkish people: “If people cannot create a mindset of “is everything really true?” then you will get [autocratic rule]. If Erdogan leaves this whole system will crash. That’s why in every wiretap they talk about him.”