Iraq shuts down Telegram over privacy concerns

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Since August 6, 2023, people in Iraq cannot access Telegram without using a VPN service, as the government blocked the platform over national security concerns.

The measure comes following an order issued by the Ministry of Communications to preserve the integrity of users' personal data against alleged violations.

By spoofing users' real location, a VPN or similar circumvention tool is now the only way for Iraqis to keep accessing the popular app.

Iraq's grip on the internet

"Real-time NetBlocks metrics show that Telegram frontends and backends have been restricted on leading providers Zain and Earthlink, while service remains available on Kurdish operators Kurdistan Net and Korek Telecom," reported UK-based internet watchdog NetBlocks on Sunday August 6.

The decision to suspend Telegram comes as a means to protect both citizens' privacy and national security, said the government, as the social media platform failed to respond to its requests of shutting down the channels responsible for leaking sensitive data.

"The Ministry of Communications affirms its respect for citizens' rights to freedom of expression and communication, without prejudice to the security of the state and its institutions," reads the official statement.

Experts at NetBlocks assure that, "this class of disruption can be worked around using VPN services which can circumvent government internet censorship measures."

It isn't the first time Telegram has been in hot water with governments. Portugal and Germany have previously ordered the company to shut down some channels, as these were helping to facilitate piracy and spreading misinformation. More recently, a Brazilian court suspended the service for three days for failing to hand over data of neo-Nazi chats

Whatever the reason, censoring the web and, especially, messaging platforms always create some chilling side effects. This is "due to their disproportionate impact on the public’s right to freely access and impart knowledge," NetBlocks noted.

Telegram had widespread use across Iraq as a tool for accessing news and sharing content. Its ban could prevent many people from staying informed of what's happening around them. 

Iraq is also infamous for shutting down the internet during national exams (the latest of such instances occurred exactly while were writing this article, on August 8, 2023) or, worse, in time of political crisis.

While we hope that both Telegram and the wider internet connection will soon be restored, we invite people in need to head to our free VPNs guide to help bypass any restrictions as they occur.

Chiara Castro
Senior Staff Writer

Chiara is a multimedia journalist committed to covering stories to help promote the rights and denounce the abuses of the digital side of life—wherever cybersecurity, markets and politics tangle up. She mainly writes news, interviews and analysis on data privacy, online censorship, digital rights, cybercrime, and security software, with a special focus on VPNs, for TechRadar Pro, TechRadar and Tom’s Guide. Got a story, tip-off or something tech-interesting to say? Reach out to