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Iraq anti-protest internet shutdowns cost $2.3bn in 2019

Iraqi demonstrators gather at Khilani Square and Sanak Bridge, near Tahrir Square of Baghdad, as anti-government protests continue in Baghdad, Iraq on 17 November, 2019 [Murtadha Sudani/Anadolu Agency]
Iraqi demonstrators gather at Khilani Square and Sanak Bridge, near Tahrir Square of Baghdad, as anti-government protests continue in Baghdad, Iraq on 17 November, 2019 [Murtadha Sudani/Anadolu Agency]

Deliberate internet shutdowns by governments across the world in 2019 have cost economies over $8 billion, according to a new report by Top10VPN.

Shutting down the internet as a tactic to stifle dissent came to prominence during the 2011 Egyptian uprising when the government cut off access for several days to prevent protesters from mobilising.

UNESCO has said internet shutdowns driven by political and security concerns are becoming the “new normal”.

Of the 122 countries examined by the report, Iraq was affected the most losing $2.3 billion across 263 hours of internet blackouts and social media shutdowns.

In October last year the Iraqi government shut down the internet as protesters across the country demanded authorities address unemployment, failing public services and corruption.

Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi said the government’s decision was because the internet “is being used to promote violence, hatred and conspiracy against the homeland and disrupt public life.”

By the end of October more than 22o people had died across the country. The internet shutdowns restricted citizens’ ability to raise awareness of police brutality.

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Sudan came second to Iraq with total internet and social media blackouts at 1,560 hours costing $1.9 billion.

Authorities shut the internet down in December 2018 after protests broke out calling on long-time dictator Omar Al-Bashir to step down.

In June 2019 Human Rights Watch called on authorities to lift the internet blackout in what they called a gross violation of human rights.

The outage prevented activists reporting abuse carried out by government forces.

In August last year Algerian authorities blocked YouTube for three hours after a video of the former defence minister circulated, calling on citizens to oust military leader Ahmed Gaid Salah.

When it was announced presidential elections would take place in December 2019, the internet was blocked for 36 hours following months on protests calling on Abdelaziz Bouteflika to stand down.

Egypt fully blocked Facebook Messenger during the September protests and in total shut down the internet and social media for 24 hours costing $3.8 million.

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AfricaEgyptIraqMiddle EastNewsSudan
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