INTERNET

What’s Inside Turkey’s Massive Email Leak

The Turkish government blocked the site on Tuesday after it published close to 300,000 emails from the ruling party

INTERNET
REUTERS
Jul 22, 2016 at 6:37 PM ET

Days after the Turkish government quashed an attempted coup by a military faction, WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of emails from the country’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). But though the government ordered the whistleblower site be blocked after the email dump, the leaked emails appear to reveal more about the AKP’s voters than its ruling elite.

On Tuesday, WikiLeaks released nearly 300,000 AKP emails. The emails were compiled prior to last Friday’s attempted uprising, but WikiLeaks decided to bump up its publication schedule “in response to the government’s post-coup purges,” the organization wrote on its website. WikiLeaks added that while it has verified the source behind the leak, the source has no connection “in any way, to the elements behind the attempted coup, or to a rival political party or state.”

Shortly after the publication of the email leak, Turkey’s Telecommunications Board ordered the site be blocked within Turkey. The government wrote that it had taken an ‘administrative measure,’ which, according to Reuters, is a term commonly used when a website has had its access restricted.

Turkey’s government, under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is no stranger to censoring the internet. Rated as “partly free” by democracy watchdog Freedom House’s 2015 Freedom on the Net report, the country has routinely restricted access to social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter during times of political upheaval. In fact, Erdogan, who has routinely gone after people who insult him on social media platforms, was once quoted telling a committee of journalists that he was “increasingly against the internet every day.”

A closer look at the data dump offers more insight into the AKP’s constituents, however, as opposed to its leaders. Only a fraction of the emails compiled originate from AKP email accounts, while many appear to be from citizens informing the government about neighbors and acquaintances who are thought to be engaged in criminal activities or are critical of the government.

One email, carrying the subject line “Here are my neighbor’s Facebook posts that insult Erdogan,” details how the sender filed a complaint to the Ministry of Internal Affairs over his or her neighbors’ alleged threats. “Please check their Facebook accounts which include insults to our President,” it says. “I attached a few screenshots from Facebook…I request you keep my name anonymous.”

Another email included in the dump was sent with the subject “These people are communists and they insult the Prophet Muhammad.”

To: [email addresses of AKP central and local branches, National Police HQ and local police department, pro-government newspapers]

Plaintiff: [name and address redacted]

Suspects: [names, birthplaces, addresses redacted]

Crime: Insulting Prophet Muhammad, insulting president, insulting ministers

Evidence: Facebook posts are printed out and recorded into CDs, will be provided upon request of the prosecutor

These two suspects have shared insulting posts on [redacted Facebook address]. This is against [many articles of] Penal Code. I request the prosecutor to start an investigation.

Yours sincerely,

[name redacted],

Occupation: teacher

The leak does contain emails from AKP members, as well. One email, titled “Reply from AK Party: Provide us the link to their Facebook posts insulting Erdogan,” requests the citizen who filed the initial complaint hand over any relevant information. “If you provide us the link to the Facebook posts of the insulting remarks, we will transfer it to our legal department,” it reads. “Thank you for your support, have a nice a day.”