Iraqi government shut down Internet to… prevent exam cheating?

A year after Iraqi officials ordered the shutdown of Internet access in nearly a quarter of the country to limit the ability of ISIS to communicate, the government ordered a complete shutdown of Internet service in the country for three hours on Saturday, June 27. A shorter interruption followed today. At least one of these outages was apparently intended to block a different sort of message traffic: the sharing of answers for national exams for entry into junior high school.

The outage began at 5:00am in Iraq and lasted until 8:00am, based on data from Dyn Research. According to the Egypt-based Arabic news service El Hadas, the outage corresponded to "the start of the sixth ministerial preparatory exams"—the national tests for entry into junior high school. In Iraq, education is only required for all students up to the sixth-grade level; those who fail to score well enough on exams at the end of the sixth year generally don't continue their education.

With that kind of high-pressure testing, the motivation for cheating is high as well—so high that the government decided to shut down Internet access to prevent parents or others from remotely assisting students during the exams. It's not clear whether the brief outage today (which lasted about an hour, starting at 5:00am again) was also connected to testing.

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