Iraq’s internet has been partially cut on the morning of Wednesday 26 June 2019 in compliance with a decision the Council of Ministers seeking to prevent cheating during national school exams.
Data show that connectivity with several internet providers including leading ISP EarthLink fell below 50%, with the education ministry schedule showing that physics exams will be sat today. Impact is regional with significant disruption in Baghdad while other cities including the country’s autonomous Kurdish regions remain unaffected.
The Internet is down again in #Iraq following a decision to disable infrastructure to stop school exam cheats:
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) June 29, 2019
NetBlocks has tracked systematic internet disruptions during Iraq’s exams in recent years, and advocacy groups are campaigning to end the practice. The exams were initially scheduled to be held in late May, but were postponed due to the Eid holiday.
Data indicate that exams held in prior days were not subject to shutdowns suggesting that the measure may have been ordered reactively in response to leaked exam papers.
The disruptions are estimated to have an economic impact to Iraq’s GDP of up to $10 million USD per exam session.
During last year’s first exam season, NetBlocks found that the daily exam shutdowns masked additional politically-motivated regional blackouts targeting protesters in Basra:
The previous series of #Iraq exam internet shutdowns also masked an additional sub-national disruption affecting #Basra amid protests calling for clean water and an end to government corruption (surfaced via analysis of data) #KeepItOnhttps://t.co/a1NhgRbl7q
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) October 15, 2018
The practice of shutting internet access has a significant toll on society and free expression, with a national shutdown in 2018 costing Iraq’s economy over $40m USD.
Update: As of September 2019, exam shutdowns are back with at least five recorded incidents having national impact through recent days:
The Internet has just been cut in #Iraq … to stop cheating in exams. That's the fifth time in a week.
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) September 2, 2019
NetBlocks diffscans, which map the entire IP address space of a country in real time, show internet outages corresponding to connectivity disruptions. Purposeful internet outages generally have a distinct network pattern used by NetBlocks to determine and attribute the root cause of an outage, a process known as attribution which follows detection and classification stages.
NetBlocks is a civil society group working at the intersection of digital rights, cyber-security and internet governance. Independent and non-partisan, NetBlocks strives for an open and inclusive digital future for all.