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Saudi Arabia Blocks Instant Messaging App Viber

Following the Saudi threat to block encrypted communication software unless the government is allowed to spy, the instant messaging application Viber was blocked on June 5, 2013. The website can no longer be accessed and the application does not connect.

The blockage came after a deadline that the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission had set. Since then, at least one telecommunication company has been caught trying to break encryption to enforce government regulation. The earlier threat also mentioned Skype and WhatsApp as violators of the current regulation.

The decision was largely condemned in the Saudi Twittersphere.

Human rights lawyer Abulaziz al-Hussan tweeted [ar]:

إذا حجب الإنسان فكل شيء بعده تبعاً …!

@AHussan: If humans are blocked, everything then follows.

Blogger Essam al-Zamil thought it was only an experiment:

يبدو أن هيئة الاتصالات (والداخلية) اختارت البرنامج الأقل انتشارا (فايبر) لمعرفة ردة فعل الناس تجاه الحجب.

@essamz: Apparently, The Communications Commission (and the Interior [Ministry]) chose the least popular website to test the people's reaction to the blockage.

Others blamed the telecommunication companies for having a role in the blockage:

بإمكان تكونوا صريحين مع المُتلقي وتقولون أن السبب هو ماتتكبده شركات الإتصالات من خسائر فادحة جراء تواجد هذه البرامج!

@mo3tem: You can be frank with the people and say that the reason was the great revenue loss of the telecommunication companies because of these applications.

A popular technology website, Technology World, prepared a list of available alternatives that are not blocked (yet):

بعد إيقاف تطبيق فايبر، هنا مجموعة من البدائل

techwd: After the Viber blockage, here is a list of alternatives.


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