Iraq lifts social media ban, some websites still blocked

DUBAI Tue Jul 1, 2014 7:58pm IST

Iraqi Shi'ite youths use computers at an internet cafe in Sadr City in Baghdad May 3, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/Files

Iraqi Shi'ite youths use computers at an internet cafe in Sadr City in Baghdad May 3, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah/Files

Related Topics

Stocks

   

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iraq has lifted a 17-day social media ban imposed to disrupt the communications of armed militants who have seized much of its west and north, although about 20 news websites remain blocked, industry sources said on Tuesday.

One source said that Iraq had come under pressure from foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to end the ban but the state telecoms company did not explain why it had done so.

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which on Sunday declared its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi caliph of the Muslim world, is the driving force behind the rebellion by Sunni Muslim groups and has used social media to publicise its agenda.

The revolt, which began with the June 10 capture of Mosul, prompted state-run Iraq Telecommunications and Post Company (ITPC) to block some social media platforms on June 13, Reuters reported last month.

These included Facebook, Twitter, Skype and YouTube.

The ban was lifted on Monday, according to Martin Frank, chief executive of Sulaymaniyah-based Internet provider IQ Networks, and three industry sources who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

ITPC, which owns almost all fixed line networks outside Kurdistan, and the Ministry of Communications did not respond to requests for comment.

About 20 news websites, including those of Qatar’s Al Jazeera and Saudi-owned television station Al Arabiya are still blocked, two sources said.

Iraq's Shi'ite Muslim Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, has accused Qatar and Saudi Arabia of funding Sunni insurgents in Iraq, a charge the two Gulf states have denied.

In a separate move, the government has lifted restrictions on virtual private networks (VPN) that were also imposed in mid-June, the sources said.

VPNs enable users to appear as if they are accessing the Internet from elsewhere, thereby dodging online restrictions.

In a third apparently related move, the government has again permitted mobile data use outside conflict areas, two sources said. Mobile data includes instant messaging applications such as Whatsapp.

This followed last month's nationwide ban on such services from Iraq’s three mobile operators - Zain Iraq, part of Kuwait’s Zain, Ooredoo unit Asiacell and Orange affiliate Korek.

Iraq has yet to allow 3G services and only basic websites and services are available over 2G.

The ITPC has periodically shut down the Internet in Iraq in recent weeks, although such blocks are only partly effective because Kurdistan’s networks are beyond its control.

The most recent major outage was on June 22 and lasted five hours, according to Renesys, a U.S.-based firm that carries out real-time analysis of internet routes and traffic.

Videos posted online showing the killing of Iraqi soldiers and Shi’ites, whom ISIL considers to be heretics worthy of death, have helped it recruit disaffected Sunnis and intimidate its enemies.

(Editing by Anna Willard)

FILED UNDER:

Hack Attack

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Nifty Above 8,600

Nifty Above 8,600

Nifty hits record high above 8,600; state-run lenders gain  Full Article 

Indian in Iraq

Indian in Iraq

India says no contact with 39 men held by Islamic State in Iraq.  Full Article 

Sahara Issue

Sahara Issue

Sahara looks to raise $650 million loan to fund bail.  Full Article 

Bhopal Tragedy

Bhopal Tragedy

Bhopal's toxic legacy lives on, 30 years after industrial disaster.  Full Article 

Essar Group

Essar Group

Exclusive - Essar's planned oil-for-steel deal tests Iran sanctions  Full Article 

Islamic Fund

Islamic Fund

India gets new Islamic equity fund but debt market still off-limits  Full Article 

Fiscal Deficit

Fiscal Deficit

April-October fiscal deficit nears 90 pct of full-year target  Full Article 

Oil Prices

Oil Prices

Oil hits new four-year low post OPEC as glut looms  Full Article 

Gold Imports

Gold Imports

India eases gold import rule in surprise move.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage