The Iraqi government has shut down the country’s internet to prevent students from cheating during exams.
This was according to data from DYN Research, a firm that tracks web outages across the world.
According to the Research Company, internet access was nearly entirely blocked for three hours on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday morning this week, between 5AM and 8AM local time.
— Dyn Research (@DynResearch) May 16, 2016
The extreme measures are a bid to ensure that some of the country’s 600,000 primary school students could not access answers purchased ahead of national standardized tests, Education Ministry spokeswoman Hadeel al-Ameri said.
“We asked the Communications Ministry to shut off Internet services because we knew that some students — those who are lazy — started to use the Internet trying to get [answers],” she added.
“Security departments were able to arrest some people who were trying to leak the questions and we found out that there were few people in the [Education] Ministry who used to leak these questions,” al-Ameri said, without specifying exactly how many people had been detained.
Iraq’s Ministry of Communications is yet to comment on the shutdown, however an email obtained by the human rights group Social Media Exchange (SMEX) appears to show an instruction from the country’s Communications ministry to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) for the Internet to be shut down for a three hour period on Sunday, May 15.
“As all the International Gateways in all Iraq borders will be down in the mentioned period, so this activity will affects on all of the Internet Service Providers, Mobile Operators, and VSAT Operators in Iraq,” the email stated.
“Sorry to cause any inconvenience to you, and thanks for your understanding.”
This is not the first time the Iraqi government is taking such measures, the same pattern was also noticed this time last year, leading to speculation that the main goal was to prevent exam cheating.
They had in the past blocked internet access and social media sites for political reasons; about a quarter of the country was blacked out last year in an attempt to hinder ISIS.