Iraq blocks social media sites, apps amid insurgent threats
The Iraqi government has decided to block social media websites and communications apps in the country in an attempt to dampen the momentum of insurgent Islamist militants as they march towards Baghdad.
The affected websites include Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The affected apps include Viber and WhatsApp.
While the government issued no official statement regarding the ban, it is surely connected with the current movement of militants from the Sunni extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, who "have released videos and pictures through websites to promote their actions in central and north of Iraq."
The Iraqi government was also concerned that ISIS militants were organizing their actions through social networks, according to Martin Chulov, a correspondent for the Guardian. In addition, ISIS supporters have been using their social network accounts to release wrong information to the public, including pictures and videos that have been recorded in the past but are being described as currently happening.
ISIS is known to heavily use social media to further their efforts, including posting videos on YouTube of the group's Mujahideen giving speeches and sending out tweets on the message of these videos.
While the government's decision would curtail the organization of the militants and limit the release of false news, Internet activists believed that cutting off the entire country from social media was counterproductive as the false information could not be refuted.
"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," a Facebook spokesperson told Time.
Twitter and YouTube also confirmed that users from Iraq are not able to access their services.
ISIS continues their movement towards Baghdad after taking over the cities of Mosul and Tikrit. They have now moved to the towns of Saadiyah and Jalawla.
Meanwhile, the most senior Shia cleric in Iraq has called on the people to fight against the militant Islamic group to defend the country. Such a battle will only further deepen the unrest between the Sunni and Shia divides of Islam.
U.S. President Barack Obama has said that he is taking a look at all the possibilities to help Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, quell the militant insurgency.
"I don't rule out anything because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria," Obama said.