Are you dreaming of an unblocked Youtube in Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia Internet censorship is said to be one of the most extensive in the world. Indeed, 18 months after the Internet was introduced in the Kingdom back in 1999, the number of sites that have been banned in the country already reached 200,000.
In 2012, Saudi Arabia was aiming at increasingly monitoring online videos. The Saudi Broadcasting Authority was seeking to censor the content of websites, including now YouTube video platform. The head of the Saudi organization, Riyadh Najm, said in the newspaper Al -Hayat that ” among its responsibilities, the Authority’s mission is to monitor the content of videos posted on the Internet, including on YouTube ,” claiming that “No country in the world shall tolerate the lack of supervision” on the websites. According to Reuters, Saudi Arabia ranks first for the percentage of its population (around 28 million inhabitants) who use YouTube.
According to OpenNet Initiativ, a site specialized in studying Internet monitoring practices, users who want to post videos must make a request to the authorities to get a license and have to comply with the production content terms. Riyadh Najm did not specify if the censorship was on videos posted from Saudi Arabia or onto the YouTube full content.
In 2016, residents of Saudi Arabia became more angry as they could no longer make calls using the messaging and voice calling app called LINE. Authorities indeed blocked LINE’s calling feature over the weekend of September 3 2016, adding another one to the long list of VoIP services and messaging apps entirely or partially blocked in Saudi Arabia. As for Mobile apps, here are the ones blocked in Saud Arabia: Viber, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram and Skype.
Other ways of Internet censorship also include threatening bloggers, as reported by Amnesty International: “I have been harassed in many ways. The authorities approached the internet providers hosting my personal website and asked them to block it and delete all the content. They also dispatched security officers to tell me to stop what I was doing in my own and my family’s best interests. I was later officially banned from blogging and threatened with arrest if I continued. I succumbed and stopped in order to protect my family.”
Censorship is at its maximum, especially after passing the Terrorism Law. A poet was indeed arrested as a result of a tweet which indirectly criticized King Abdullah using symbolic language. With millions of web users in Saudi Arabia, this means the authorities are keeping an eye on everything that is being written. We have also received reports through international newspapers that Saudi Arabia uses surveillance to hack and monitor activists’ accounts.
Saudi Arabia is considered as one of the most conservative in the world “[Access to sites] standards and conditions differ from one country to another according to the traditions and customs of each society”, added the Saudi official. But he admitted that this monitoring mission would be “very difficult.”
Saudi Arabia is considered by Reporters Without Borders as one of the” Enemies of the Internet “. Indeed, in 2011, Saudi Arabia did pass a law restricting Internet freedom of expression. Since then, any information or blog must get an authorization to publish content from the authorities.
“There are many cases of bloggers being restricted or banned. Some of them – whom I know – are still being investigated about blogs they wrote in 2008, even though they aren’t involved in blogging anymore. Saudi bloggers can also be fired from their jobs and prevented from making a living. Many face false allegations that they are ‘atheists’ or ‘demented’. Restrictions are imposed on almost every aspect of the blogger’s life.”
The authorities have set up powerful cyber armies which give a false impression of the situation in Saudi Arabia to people overseas. They launch websites, YouTube channels and blogs to target activists and opponents, and talk about them as infidels and agents who promote disobedience of the Ruler. By contrast, these websites, channels and blogs often praise the state and its efforts.
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