Iraqi web users respond to censorship by downloading Tor in droves

19 Jun 2014

With Iraq rapidly descending into chaos with the increasing attacks by Islamic militants, the Iraqi government’s attempts to censor large swathes of the internet has seen usage of the Tor anonymous browsing platform increase tenfold.

Since the group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has taken over much of the cities of southern Iraq, the official Iraqi government has taken the steps to block access to much of the country’s social media and other means of spreading information in what it hopes will reduce the organisation’s ability to communicate.

According to the Daily Dot, unhappy Iraqis and followers of ISIS have responded to the ban by downloading and installing Tor software, which encrypts the user’s computer and enables them to carry out anonymous and untraceable online activities.

So much so that in the last five days, the user numbers in the country have sky rocketed to about 10,000, up from 1,000 on 10 June.

One of the most outspoken critics of the decision to censor some of the world’s most active websites has been Iraqi hacker and former hacktivist with LulzSec, Mustafa Al-Bassam.

Speaking to the Daily Dot, Al-Bassam has said this is only an excuse for the government to enforce high levels of censorship against its own opponents. “This is a ludicrous excuse for collateral censorship for a government that claims to be democratic, especially after the death of hundreds of thousands of people required to reach this state of government and remove the previous dictatorship that denied Iraqis their basic freedoms.”

Iraq map image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic