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Iraq mulls new net control laws

Proposal asks internet cafes and ISPs to comply with new standards in order to obtain licences

Iraq mulls new net control laws
Net cafes in Iraq are expected to block sites that tout terrorism and violate social morals. (Getty Images)

The Iraqi government has announced new measures to control internet access and block inappropriate web content in the country.

"All Web sites that glorify terrorism and incite violence and sectarianism, or those that violate social morals with content such as pornography will be banned," communications ministry spokesman Sameer Al Hasoon told AP recently; with many fearful that the move will affect freedom of speech and political censorship.

As part of the proposal, internet cafes, and eventually local ISPs, will need to obtain licences from the government that will be based on their compliance with set standards.

Al Hasoon added that the cabinet is expected to give the recommendations a green light next week, after which the government will send the draft legislation to parliament for final approval.

According to a report by The Initiative For an Open Arab Internet, internet users in Iraq increased from 21,500 in 2001 to approximately 120,000 users in 2004, a year after ex-President Saddam Hussein and his regime was toppled. A massive 500% growth in Iraqi net users was projected over the next five years through till 2009, though no official figures have been released as yet.

Investigating the issue of internet control before and after Saddam’s rule, the same report concluded that while censorship exists even after the US invasion of Iraq, it is “not as strict as it was under Saddam” but highlighted the issue of religious scholars censoring the internet “in the absence of the Iraqi ruling authority.”

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