Iraq government blocks all social networking sites
The Iraqi government has blocked access to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, as well as other social networking sites following the rise in militant violence in the country.
Internet users wishing to access these sites, along with Skype, Viber and Instagram, are met with a message informing them that the Ministry of Communications has prohibited their access.
In an online article published on Monday, Social Media Exchange.org (SMEX) advocates of communication through new media in the Arab world, stating that a document had been leaked from the Ministry of Telecommunications in Iraq requesting that all ISP’s in the country to block internet access.
According to the translation offered by SMEX, the document demands a complete shut-down of internet in provinces of Ninawa, Anbar, Saleh El Din, Kirkuk and Diyalah, as well as blocked access to Virtual Private Networks (VPN) between 4pm and 7am.
Following the imposed restrictions, the number of people accessing internet via circumvention systems has risen dramatically, with one such system provider, Psiphon, reporting an increase from 8,000 users to more than 550,000 on Sunday alone.
Many anti-censorship organisations have condemned the Iraqi government for introducing the blocks. A representative of one such group, Jillian York at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the BBC: “The Iraqi government will not achieve anything by blocking social media websites, rather, in doing so, they’re cutting off a lifeline for activists and others to the outside world.”
No official reason has been given for the implementation of the restrictions, however many see the move as an attempt by the Iraqi government to prohibit the online activities of the Jihadist militant group ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).
The group, whose primary objective is to create a brand new emirate spanning the border between Syria and Iraq, have recently used Twitter and Facebook to publicise recent massacres of captured soldiers of the disbanded Iraqi army.