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Iraq Shuts Down Internet In Response To Baghdad Protests

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Latest in questionable line of power tactics as Iraqi government turns off internet for nearly four hours

The Iraqi government has shut down internet access in the country in response to mass protests in the capital of Baghdad.

Thousands of demonstrators marched on Tahrir Square in central Baghdad Friday morning, protesting in opposition to alleged corruption within the current government, which in turn, stopped internet access to most areas of the country, except in Kurdistan, because the protest was deemed illegal.

The demonstrators held placards reading “Yes, yes to reform. No, no to sectarianism. No, no to corruption”, according to Al Jazeera news.

Internet access appeared to go down at 3.39 UTC, but was restored at 7.15 UTC.

The outage was spotted by internet performance company Dyn, a company that measures and researches global internet connectivity.

History of outages

Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Dyn, told TechWeekEurope that the company picked up on the outage this morning.

Dyn Research
Dyn Research

“There’s a history of outages in Iraq, they seem to do this more and more these days for things as trivial as sixth grade exams,” he said.

“It went down at 3.39 UTC, and then it returned at 7.15 UTC.

“There was just a UN resolution condemning internet outages, and that was slightly in response to previous Iraqi outages.”

That UN resolution came just two weeks ago, when the organisation published a paper called The promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet.

The resolution criticises the practice of shutting down internet access to citizens. While it was passed by consensus, certain countries such as China and Russia attempted to change parts of the resolution by changing the text of the resolution.

Other countries backed China and Russia’s view, such as Saudi Arabia, India, and South Africa.

But the resolution states: “The same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression, which is applicable regardless of frontiers and through any media of one’s choice, in accordance with articles 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

How?

Middle East Night Network Persian Gulf Iraq Saudi Arabla © Anton Balazh ShutterstockIn Iraq, the government can give the order to block access to the fibre network in the country from ISPs.

“So in Iraq there’s a fibre backbone…and the government maintains the keys to that,” Madory explained.

“That’s typically how they implement these shut downs. They can give orders to the government entity that runs the fibre to just disable the fibre optic connections that most of the country relies on.”

The Iraqi government, headed by Haider al-Abadi, had previously cut off access to the internet in May in an attempt to stop its sixth graders cheating in exams.

Before that, the government shut down internet communications in response to the city of Mosul falling to ISIS in June 2014.

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