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

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
NOTE: GrowthBeat -- VentureBeat's provocative new marketing-tech event -- is a week away! We've gathered the best and brightest to explore the data, apps, and science of successful marketing. Get the full scoop here, and grab your tickets while they last.

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.


We're studying digital marketing compensation: how much companies pay CMOs, CDOs, VPs of marketing, and more, with ChiefDigitalOfficer. Help us out by filling out the survey, and we'll share the results with you.
11 comments
Kate Neale
Kate Neale

Tactically you could see the appeal in the mind of someone from an earlier era, but as so many of us know, social networks can work just as hard against a cause as they can for a cause, see here: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/18/someone-is-spilling-isis-s-secrets-on-twitter.html  Anyone can use the medium but it is important to remember that Twitter is a corporate entity, a global one, and they have all right and entitlement to monitor and edit any content that goes on their service. Media have always monitored and edited at their own discretion and twitter as a medium is entitled to do the same. "To whom much is given [in this case power], much is expected". In the modern media era, 'the power of the press' is no less potent and carries no less responsibility than it ever has. The dilemma for twitter is to decide if they are part of the problem, or part of the solution.

Fuad Amraoui
Fuad Amraoui

They just did the same thing as the Republic of Iran

Curtis Sumpter
Curtis Sumpter

If this is what Iraq is doing to stop the army marching on Baghdad they've got real problems. I doubt if the Russians were attacked by the Chinese the first thing they'd do is shut down Facebook.

Tim Sweet
Tim Sweet

And this is why our own government keeps trying to regulate the internet. To try and stifle any future revolutions as it becomes more and more corrupt.

Amr Esam
Amr Esam

terrorists are USA, Asad, Sisi, and all arbian governments.

Aiyman Hadi
Aiyman Hadi

The Iraqi government needed to stop communication as terrorist were using it to communicate. Lets not forget the US army back in 2003-2005 would take down all communications before major missions, so this is not unheard of.

Takeshi Young
Takeshi Young

Yep, because that worked *so* well for the other countries that tried it.

Sumi Allen
Sumi Allen

Iraq just got spared the raunchy melodrama that is Chinese funded leveraged political theater. They got lucky.