Iraqi demonstrators use cell phones to film protests in the central shrine city of Najaf on July 14, 2018. Photo: Haidar Hamdani | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Iraqi government's limiting of
internet usage could cause a loss of $40 million per day as protests across
Iraq's southern and eastern provinces enter a second week, according to an
"The present internet shutdown may cost Iraq's economy
some $40,000,000 per day in lost business, sales and opportunities as it enters
the working week," read a statement based on data collection by NetBlocks.org,
an internet shutdown observatory, regarding blackouts which began on Saturday.
The Cost of Shutdown Tool (COST), created by NetBlocks and
the Internet Society, is used to measure the economic ramifications of
disrupting internet access. The tool is supported by the D.C.-based think tank,
The Brookings Institution.
Outages in already cash-strapped Iraq have varied by internet service provider, type of
connection, and type of plan or device.
The Iraqi government imposed a full internet shutdown across
the southern provinces of Iraq, including Baghdad and Kirkuk, as well as Basra,
the origination of the protests which began over lack of basic services.
Mobile applications which have messaging features like
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat also have been blocked.
The blackouts primarily affect businesses that rely on
social media for marketing and sales.
"Iraq is known to use internet controls to suppress
dissent, provide operational security during conflicts, and even as a measure
to prevent cheating in school exams," added the report.
The group, which propagates the #KeepItOn movement, is
encouraging people in Iraq to scan a QR code to help track the outages.
The main complaint of demonstrators in southern Iraq is a
lack of jobs. The official unemployment rate in Iraq is 10.8 percent, but that
figure doubles among the country's large young population. Nearly 59 percent of
Iraq's population is under the age of 25.
The people of Basra first started their protests on July 9.
The protests then spread to eight other provinces, with similar demands to
those in Basra for electricity and services.
Hisham al-Hashimi, a security advisor to influential Sunni
politician Salim al-Jabouri tweeted on Monday, that through nine days of
protests 487 people (protestors and security personnel) have been injured.
Ninety-three people have been arrested for vandalism and violent behavior in
the southern protests.
The Iraqi government is employing all possible means to end
the protests, including deploying security forces under a state of emergency
and pledging to invest in infrastructure in addition to cutting internet