Bahar Jasim, Mohamad Najem, Afef Abrougui, Collin Anderson and Ellery Roberts Biddle contributed to this report.
UPDATE [June 13, 2014, 22:00 UTC]: The original version of this article reported that Google search was being blocked in Iraq. Updates from the ground indicate that these services are still accessible.
Internet users in several provinces of Iraq are reporting that they cannot access major social media and other websites. Local media [ar] and at least one ISP said on June 13, 2014 that the Ministry of Communications ordered Internet providers to shut down “Facebook, Twitter, YouTube
and Google search.” Observers suspect that blockages and slow speeds online are due to the country’s deteriorating security situation.
One journalist tweeted that the blocking happened because the government feared the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terror group (ISIS) was using social media to “organize and mobilise.” ISIS indeed has been using social media platforms to communicate. On June 12, they announced on Twitter [ar] that they had killed 1700 soldiers in Tikrit.
#Iraq Tigrisnet Internet Service Provider confirms Ministry of Communications has ordered the blocking of #Twitter. pic.twitter.com/8xqV1DUlDT
— Collin Anderson (@CDA) June 13, 2014
An error message from ISP TigrisNet indicated that it was blocking Twitter in response to an order from the Ministry of Communications (MoC). Although journalists are reporting that Facebook and Twitter are still accessible in Baghdad, some say the Internet is getting progressively slower in country’s capital city. Blogger and social media expert Qais_Qazaz tweeted that the Internet is expected to be shut down in Kirkuk province, where he resides. Friends communicating with Qais have since lost contact with him and suspect that the cut has already been implemented.
Screenshots below show, taken on June 13, show error messages that users in Iraq are receiving when trying to access Twitter and Facebook.
On June 9, network monitoring firm Renesys reported that 141 networks in Iraq had experienced an outage, though most were reportedly restored in the following days.
The Facebook page for Iraq’s Ministry of Communications posted a message earlier today announcing an impending gradual shutdown of the Internet throughout Iraq on June 15 for “maintenance of fibre optic cables.” It is unclear whether today’s blockages are related to these plans.