A single line of computer code landed thousands of innocent Turks in jail


The story began with the free Bylock messaging app, which was used between 2014 and 2016 and which the Turkish government associated with treason and  followers of Fethullah Gülen, the group they believe was behind the attempted 2016 coup. The app was downloaded roughly half a million times and had 215,000 registered users. When the government began arresting people who had no traces of the app on their phones, digital forensics experts Tuncay Beşikçi and Koray Peksayar, and lawyer Ali Aktaş began studying the cases. They discovered that people who never downloaded or used the app were arrested because a line of code in other apps opened a single-pixel window onto Bylock.net - which Beşikçi believes may have been an attempt to obfuscate who was and was not a member of the Gülen organisation. In December 2017 the Turkish courts published a list of 11,480 mobile phone numbers representing individuals wrongly accused of terrorism because of the false connection to Bylock. In the meantime, many were imprisoned for months, and some committed suicide. In late January 2018, the three were still receiving calls and Twitter messages from people saying they've been wrongly accused.

Writer: Nil Köksal
Publication: CBC News

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