Twitter, Facebook blocked in Iraq

Internet users in Iraq have been blocked from visiting Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media sites out of fear that extremists are using the services to plot attacks, according to multiple reports on Friday.

The apparent outage comes amid heightened tensions in the nation, which seems to be heading towards a sectarian civil war. Sunni extremists backed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have marched through Mosul and Tikrit in recent days, and seem to be headd for Baghdad.

The Kuwait News Agency reported that the Iraqi government ordered Internet service providers to block major social media services as well as a number of pornographic websites, but did not give a reason. 

According to a journalist with the Guardian, however, the move came out of fear that ISIS was using the services to organize and communicate. 

A Facebook spokesperson said the company is “disturbed by reports of access issues in Iraq and [is] investigating. Limiting access to Internet services — essential for communication and commerce for millions of people — is a matter of concern for the global community.”

In a post, Twitter’s policy team also confirmed that it had received reports that some people were having troubling accessing the service.

“We’re investigating their reports and we hope service will be restored quickly,” Twitter said. 

The increase in violence in Iraq has triggered fears that the country could descend into total warfare, just more than three years after the U.S. military left the nation. ISIS controls a large swath of the northern part of the country and reportedly relied on social media accounts to organize and spread its message.

President Obama said on Friday that the United States would not be “dragged back into” a military conflict in the region, though the administration was considering a range of other options to deal with the crisis.