Google on Saturday said that the company’s Domain Name System service had “been intercepted by most Turkish ISPs (Internet Service Providers),” the latest update in an ongoing cat-and-mouse game between the Turkish government, its citizens and American Internet companies.
In the last few weeks, the Turkish government had blocked access to websites like Twitter and YouTube, an order that came from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after recordings that allegedly involved government impropriety were posted to both services.
In the wake of the block, citizens had found workarounds using Google’s DNS service to access Twitter and YouTube, essentially circumventing the government’s block.
“A DNS server tells your computer the address of a server it’s looking for, in the same way that you might look up a phone number in a phone book,” Google software engineer Steven Carstensen wrote in a company blog post. “Google operates DNS servers because we believe that you should be able to quickly and securely make your way to whatever host you’re looking for, be it YouTube, Twitter, or any other.”
Shortly after the workarounds were discovered, Turkish officials began closing those workarounds one by one in a sort of “Whack-a-Mole”-style defense.
This latest development, which Google is careful not to attribute to any specific organization, again makes it difficult for citizens to access the blocked sites inside of Turkey.
“Imagine if someone had changed out your phone book with another one, which looks pretty much the same as before, except that the listings for a few people showed the wrong phone number,” Carstensen wrote. “That’s essentially what’s happened: Turkish ISPs have set up servers that masquerade as Google’s DNS service.”
The interception comes on the eve of local Turkish elections, which could unseat key members of Erdogan’s ruling AK party.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.