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UAE: Thousands of Sites Blocked in New Crackdown

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, United Arab Emirates, Breaking News, Digital Activism, Economics & Business, Freedom of Speech, Technology

The UAE blogging community [1] is slowly absorbing a new clampdown [2] on the Internet, following the blocking [3] of thousands of websites en masse after objections on their content. While some bloggers are welcoming the move to filter sexually explicit and “unacceptable” material, others are not so happy with the crackdown.

According to i*maginate [4] state-owned Dubai telecom provider Du [5] sent the following message to its users:

“Dear valued customer, we wish to inform you that from 14 April 2008 we will be blocking sites with content that do not conform to the moral, social and cultural values of the UAE. Thank you.”

Commenting on this news, Hatem [6] writes:

Today, I came home to find the TV service broken and Facebook useless! But water and electricity are still there! Ah, and internet too!

And Ali009 [7] reasons:

the more you block, the more people just get curious :P

Meanwhile, Samuriasam [8] says that another telecom provider Etisalat [9] has partially blocked Facebook. The blogger explains:

Etisalat has once again managed to block an integral part of facebook (or was it just MySpace I'm thinking of the last 5 times they managed to do something like this?) (http://static.ak.fbcdn.net/); this is preventing CSS and other design elements from the website loading properly.

Anonymous [10] reacts to this announcement saying:

Come on now, its not like anyone will die because of not having access to facebook !
Move on, there's a lot more to life than facebook,

to which Imaginate [11] replies:

there is much more to life than the internet, too. As far as I'm concerned, it's really anti-social, so I call for a block on the whole of the internet too. Just not facebook (yet) because I need time to save all my friends’ contact details. I wish things were like in the old days, where telephones and emails didn't exist. Those were happy days!

Acknowledging that it is the community which pushed for such measures, Dubai Entrepreneur [12] lashes out at a society which accepts such censorship as being “backward.” He writes:

Internet censorship is always a big deal for bloggers (writers and readers), let alone the average Internet user. For the most part, it is often the government dictating rules that residents/stake-holders don't want. In the case of Internet censorship, it appears to be a case of the citizens demanding more of.


I have come to the conclusion that you can't help those who don't want to be helped. However, we should clearly identify who is responsible for the current state of access to information. In this case, it is the community that is backward. The situation is beyond help.

Ismail D [13] says the new crackdown, also effects the Free Zone areas, which have lured giant media, communications and Internet companies. He announces:

The run of uncensored internet enjoyed in UAE free zones is over.

He also adds that such a crackdown may impede their work, saying:

Now, considering this proxy will be affecting most of the ‘Free zones’ with all the big name media companies (CNN, BBC etc.) and Internet/Technology companies (Cisco, Microsoft, Google etc.) how will this be affecting their business? There are bound to be sites that should not be blocked or sites that are blocked but could be used for legitimate reasons. An example would be a security professional checking known hacking/exploit archives or a journalist visiting ‘Political/Terrorist’ sites. I am certain it will cause some amount of frustration amongst the companies based here and possibly even hamper some media companies.