Iraq shuts down social media to prevent government overthrow (updated)

Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) celebrate on vehicles taken from Iraqi security forces, at a street in city of Mosul.

Above: Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) celebrate on vehicles taken from Iraqi security forces, at a street in city of Mosul.

Image Credit: Reuters

Updated 1 p.m. ET with initial responses from Facebook and Twitter. Updated 1:53 p.m. ET with Google’s response.

The Republic of Iraq today blocked Twitter, Google, YouTube, Facebook, and other sites, in response to the uprising of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, numerous media outlets claim.

The Iraq government ordered the country’s ministry of communications to block the sites, International Business Times reports, “over fears that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) was using the outlets to organise their insurgency.” Although other publications report that the cause for the block is unclear, it’s noteworthy that dozens of social media accounts claim to come from official ISIS leaders.

It’s currently unknown if the above social media sites are blocked nationwide. Twitter and Facebook have a lengthy history of countrywide bans, as we’ve previously reported. Twitter was banned in Iran in 2009, in South Korea in 2010, and in Egypt since 2011, as well as in China. Facebook has reportedly faced similar censorship efforts in Egypt, Morocco, Syria, and Iran.

A YouTube spokesperson says Google is aware of the block: “We’re seeing reports that some users are not able to access YouTube in Iraq. There is no technical issue on our side and we’re looking into the situation.”

A Twitter spokesperson tells us that it is “looking into it now.” Twitter’s official Policy account has yet to release a statement on today’s block.

A Facebook spokesperson provided VentureBeat with a critical response:

We are disturbed by reports of access issues in Iraq and are investigating. Limiting access to Internet services — essential for communication and commerce for millions of people — is a matter of concern for the global community.

ISIS, the acronym for the uprising, is (of course) not to be confused with the struggling ISIS payment standard, created to rival Google Wallet.

ISIS, known as an “extremist al-Qaeda offshoot,” has been criticized by both the United Nations and president Barack Obama and has so far taken over numerous major cities in Iraq. “Iraq is going to need more help from us and the International community,” Obama stated today in a press conference filmed by the BBC. Washington is considering “launching drone strikes” against ISIS, the BBC reports.

More to follow.


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