It is not common knowledge to the outside world that Iraq has very little Internet censorship in comparison to its neighboring countries. The rise of smart phones in the market and the popularity of Facebook were some of the main influences of Internet growth in the country. In fact, some of the older generation were calling the Internet phenomenon Facebook. Social media played an important role in developing the Internet in many parts of the world; this was no different in Iraq as there is no censorship on social media. Iraq shares borders with Iran and Syria, two countries that are listed as Enemies of the Internet, a publication by Reporters Without Borders. Surprisingly, Iraq is not listed as Countries under Surveillance by the same report, however Turkey and the UAE are included.
However, due to security situations, Iraq does experience social media cut outs for short periods; such as in 2014 when ISIS first entered the country. Iraq banned some social media websites like Facebook for safety reasons. There have also been on occasions when the country has even gone as far as shutting down the Internet for several hours during the day, for example on the mornings of the Iraqi Bachelorette exams in order to prevent the students from cheating. Aside from these precautionary measures, under normal circumstances, the government does not censor people from expressing their opinions on matters related to the government, religion, and other cultural issues. This is unique to our region.
Internet censorship does not only take place in the Middle East. Russia for instance recently banned the use of Linkedin. In 2014, new legislation made it mandatory for companies to save Russian users data on online servers. When it was discovered that Linkedin did not follow the rules, the government did not hesitate in banning the website in the country.
The relaxed Internet censorship rules of Iraq may partly be due to the absences of laws; the idea of storing data online is still not widely recognized.
It is clear that Iraqi’s enjoy much greater online freedom than many of their neighboring countries. The questions that come to mind are; how will Iraqis make use of this freedom? And more importantly, how long will this online freedom last?