Week in Review: July 20, 2018

by Mary Meisenzahl

Iraq shuts down Internet access during protest

Data from Netblocks show Internet shutdowns in central and southern Iraq beginning on Friday, July 14. The shutdowns come as protests began in Basra over corruption and lack of public services. Protests spread from Basra after security forces killed one peaceful protestor and injured three others. Users reported that the Internet was accessible for around two hours on Sunday before another shutdown was implemented, affecting Baghdad, Basra, and Kirkuk. Netblocks found that the shutdowns could cost Iraq $40 million per day in lost business. According to a separate finding, other areas of Iraq are affected by content blocking. Twitter and Facebook are blocked in the Kurdish regions of northern Iraq.

Cubans get Internet on mobile phones

Cuba has started to give some citizens Internet access on their mobile phones. This is part of President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s campaign to expand Internet access. Since taking office in April, Diaz-Canel has been supportive of Cuba modernizing to participate in the global economy. According to Reuters, journalists at state news organizations were among the first to receive this access earlier this year. ETECSA, the Cuban telecoms company, plans to expand mobile Internet access to all 5 million of its customers by the end of the year. Some customers, including embassies and companies, have had access since late 2017.

2018 is already the worst year for Internet shutdowns in India

According to a Right to Information (RTI) inquiry, 2018 is already the worst year recorded for Internet shutdowns in India. The Software Freedom Law Centre’s Internet shutdown tracker lists 82 shutdowns so far in 2018, surpassing the previous record of 79 in 2017. 21 of these shutdowns have occurred in the state of Rajasthan. The most recent, on July 14 and 15, was to prevent cheating on Police Constable recruitment examinations in the city of Udaipur.

Egypt passes new social media regulations

On Monday, Egyptian parliament passed a law that gives the state the power to block accounts on social media and punish journalists found guilty of promoting fake news. The new law mandates that social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers will be treated as media outlets and will therefore be subject to regulations about posting fake news and incitement to break the law. The law also requires a license from the Supreme Council to establish new websites and gives the Council authority to suspend, block, or fine existing websites.