(IraqiNews.com) Iraq Ministry of Communications has blocked access to a number of social media and communication sites on Friday including, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp and Viber on the basis that ISIL was using the sites to organize their insurgency and disseminate propaganda.
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 responded to an IraqiNews.com inquiry 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 IraqiNews.com 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.
This is what some users in Iraq are seeing when logging into Facebook and Twitter:
Earlier on Friday, some Twitter users in Iraq, who have found ways to circumvent the restrictions, said that the sites were all inaccessible. When users attempt to visit these sites they apparently see a message from the Iraq Ministry of Communications as follows:
A source in the Iraqi Ministry of Communications confirmed the news, suggesting it is part of the central government’s tactics to deny ISIL from using social media to organize their insurgency and spread propaganda. The source also says a number of pornographic websites were blocked as well.
ISIL, the militant group now controlling large swaths of northern Iraq has praised Twitter as recently as Tuesday, with one Twitter account aligned with the group tweeting, “Praise be to Allah, who gave Twitter to the mujahideen so that they may share their joys and not have to listen to the BBC, al-Arabia and Al-Jazeera.”
Ahmad Zoughbi, a member of the Cyber Arabs, indicated that the risk now is that Iraqi netizens might use unsafe versions of circumvention tools like Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) that are infected with malware and spyware — something that has happened before in Syria, for example.
Users should “stick to the basic digital security rules and trusted tools to stay safe,” he said.
Some users also reported that messaging services like WhatsApp and Viber were down, too.