Iraqi govt blocks internet to disrupt insurgents

Tuesday 17 June 2014 | 10:58 CET | News

The Iraqi government has extended its clampdown on social media, blocking secure private communications channels to prevent Sunni militants from using them, Reuters reported.  It said the government has banned virtual private networks (VPNs) and instructed mobile telephone operators to stop mobile data, including instant messaging services.

Sunni armed groups led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) routed Baghdad's army last week, seizing Mosul and much of the north of the country and also vowing to push onto the capital.

These setbacks led state-run Iraq Telecommunications and Post Company (ITPC), which owns almost all fixed line networks outside Kurdistan, to block some social media including Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and Skype, according to a circular obtained by Reuters. The ITPC circular also ordered a complete internet shut down in Kirkuk, Salaheddin, Anbar, Diyala and Nineveh provinces as well as some districts and towns around Baghdad including Abu Ghraib and Fallujah.

That spurred many Iraqis to access these applications through VPNs, which are now blocked, according to Martin Frank, CEO of Sulaymaniyah-based internet provider IQ Networks. VPNs allow the user to appear as if they are accessing the internet from elsewhere.

The government has instructed mobile operators Zain Iraq, Ooredoo unit Asiacell and Orange affiliate Korek to block mobile data, a Korek spokeswoman said.

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