Turkish police have arrested 32 people in connection with attacks by the international hackers' group Anonymous on the websites of government agencies.
The Ankara police department that deals with smuggling and organized crime detained the suspects in cities all around the country Sunday, on suspicion of "illegally entering the communications system," Turkey's official news agency Anadolu Ajansi reported.
The crackdown comes a few days after national police in Spain arrested three individuals they described as senior members of Anonymous in Spain. At the same time, there has also been a spike in high-profile hacking attacks against governments and companies, most recently Sony Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp.
Anonymous is a loose-knit group of people that launch coordinated attacks against the websites of governments and companies, seeking to disable them with a flood of data. Last week, the group said it wanted to disrupt the websites of Turkish government agencies that were involved in a plan to roll out a selection of Internet filters that Turks will be asked to use starting in August.
The so-called denial of service attacks disrupted the website of Turkey's telecommunications authority and other government agencies for several hours on Thursday evening. The timing of the attacks, just three days before the government faced national elections in which opposition leaders were accusing it of suppressing free speech, was politically sensitive.
The arrests took place Sunday, the day of elections, which the ruling Justice and Development Party won easily. Eight of those arrested were minors under 18 years of age, and one was a lawyer, according to Anadolu Ajansi.
An official from the Information and Communication Technologies Authority, or BTK, confirmed the arrests but declined to comment Monday.
Anonymous said in its website statement that it would attack in protest at a directive that as of Aug. 22, Turkish Internet users would need to sign up for one of four filters it would create.
The regulator said the filters aimed to protect families from inappropriate material such as pornography, but the proposal triggered a backlash among a public already wary of government censorship of the Net. Since a new law was passed in 2007, the BTK has blocked access to thousands of websites within Turkey—including for over two years, YouTube. Porn sites are already blocked for all users in Turkey, regardless of age.
The BTK since clarified that sign-up for the filters would be voluntary and that the "standard package" would be no different from Web access today. However, no new draft regulation has been published and Internet freedom advocates remain skeptical. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest the planned filters on May 15.
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