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Thursday, 3 October 2019

Iraq Blocks Social Media, Shuts Down Internet Amid Civil Unrest

Following the anti-government protests taking place in the country’s capital, Baghdad, multiple service providers based in Iraq have been blocked including social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram and others.

Citizens are protesting unemployment, rampant corruption and poor public services. The violent protests have led to many being wounded in confrontations with the police.

The police opened fire on over 3,000 protesters approaching an area of the city that houses many government buildings and foreign embassies.

Internet Rights organization, NetBlocks’ also detected interruptions to the websites of encrypted messaging services such as ProtonMail and Signal

A lot of Iraqi social media users have pulled out the stops, and are circumventing the block to access social media anyway.

This is in spite of the country’s ban on VPN use in 2014. At the time, the Iraq government claimed the ban was intended to stop terrorist organizations such as Isis from influencing the public via social media.

As of now, only selected sites have been blocked, but the government may as well shut off the internet. It did this during protests in Iraq cities of Baghdad, Basra, and Kirkuk, due to protests.

In July of this year the government shut off the internet once more to prevent exam cheating.

Shutting off the internet would render even the best VPNs useless.

On the bright side, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger currently remain partially accessible via mobile phones “due to circumvention measures and alternative messaging protocols built into recent versions of the apps.”

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