The situation in Iraq looks dire: Militants from the insurgent group, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), have taken over portions of the country. Also, according to the New York Times, the top Shi’ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has put out a call to “fill the gaps within the security forces.” This, as the Times pointed out, “risked plunging Iraq further into the pattern of sectarian bloodletting between Sunnis and Shiites that convulsed the country during the height of the American occupation.”
Amidst this escalating violence, come reports that on Friday certain websites and social media were inaccessible, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google.
According to Mashable:
“Cyber Arabs, an organization based in Lebanon that monitors Internet freedom and provides cybersecurity training in the Middle-East and North Africa, confirmed to Mashable that Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are all blocked inside Iraq.”
A Facebook spokesperson told VentureBeat:
“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.”
Twitter told Mashable it was looking into the report, and YouTube stated to VentureBeat: “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.”
The International Business Times is reporting that the besieged Iraqi government has blocked these websites out of fear that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is using them to organize. The Kuwaiti News Agency is also reporting that the Iraqi government is behind the inaccessibility.
It is not known if it is a widespread outage, or just one only affecting certain areas. It is also unsure what this means for Iraqi citizens and their ability to connect during this time of upheaval. Cyber Arabs speculated that this will force Iraqis to use insecure methods to communicate, according to Mashable.
The insurgents captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and according to the Times, have their sights set on Baghdad. President Obama has ruled out sending ground troops back into Iraq, and has stated that he will have a decision “in the days ahead” about using U.S. Military in the region.
Updates will be made as they become available.
h/t Mashable, VentureBeat, International Business Times, New York Times