The Iraqi government has been in overdrive since Tuesday, when Islamic militants from ISIS seized the city of Mosul and began a slow march towards Iraq's capital of Baghdad. Traditional methods of halting the terrorist group have failed, as thousands of Iraqi soldiers have deserted when faced with the possibility of fighting ISIS militants -- so Iraq is exploring a new method: Blocking the means for ISIS members to communicate.
Today, the internet exploded with reports that Iraq had blocked access to all major social media sites, including YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, with users posting screenshots of block screens. Although some have been able to bypass the block with proxies or VPNs, social media is down for the majority of Iraq's 32.58 million citizens, as well as foreign and domestic militants.
the block is likely an attempt to hinder ISIS, who has seized a number of major Iraqi cities in the past week, including Mosul and Tikrit, and who earlier in the year established partial control in Fallujah and Ramadi. With no immediate assistance on the horizon from other nations, Iraq is exploring drastic possibilities to maintain its governing force. ISIS, like many other Jihadist militants, embrace social media websites; uploading videos of their conquests to YouTube, posting status updates and messages of support on Facebook and Twitter, and even coordinating actions across various social media sites. ISIS also maintains an English-language magazine, which they distribute via their al-Ḥayāt Media Center Twitter account.
Facebook, Twitter, and Google have all issued statements to Venturebeat on the matter, expressing their concern and noting that they will look into the situation.
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.
- Facebook response
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.
- Google response
Time will tell whether the social media block is effective; in the short term, though, ISIS doesn't seem to be hindered. The United States recently evacuated "a few hundred" Americans from a major air force base in Iraq over concerns about the militants, and cities are still making major preparations for an impending ISIS attack.