UAE proxy server imposed nationwide

Du blocks websites deemed offensive to 'moral, social and cultural values' of Emirates.

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By  Dylan Bowman Published  April 13, 2008

UAE telecom Du has blocked all websites deemed to offend the "moral, social and cultural values" of the Gulf Arab state, the company said on Sunday.

The move means from Monday companies operating out of Dubai's free zones and residents in Nakheel or Emaar Properties freehold developments will come under the UAE's proxy server for the first time.

According to the UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), the proxy server blocks websites that contain pornography, alcohol, gambling, hatred, child abuse or terrorism.

However, many more sites than just those containing these subjects are covered by the proxy.

The move will raise concerns that media freedom is being restricted as many local and international media organisations have headquarters in Dubai Media City (DMC), one of the free zones to which Du provides telecoms and internet services.

Du informed customers of the change in its content filtering policy on Sunday via SMS text message.

"We wish to inform you that from April 14, 2008 we will be blocking sites with content that do not conform to the moral, social and cultural values of the UAE," Du said.

Du said in a statement to the change would bring its internet service in line with TRA guidelines.

Internet services offered by UAE incumbent telecom Etisalat have long been covered by the proxy server and TRA officials have said on several occasions over the past year that Du services would follow.

Censorship of the internet, common in much of the Arab world, has long been opposed by press freedom advocates and human rights groups that claim unrestricted access to information is integral to free expression.

Reporters Without Borders ranks the UAE 65th out of 169 countries in latest Press Freedom Index.

3960 days ago

Aside from the violation of human freedom, another problem is that they have no idea how to manage a real filter. Youtube is not functioning properly. The UAE is blocking 60% to 70% of videos for the past couple of weeks. We are talking about documentaries and videos on science, physics, geology, archeology, philosophy and world facts.

3964 days ago

Well another cement brick to the wall of hypocrisy that exists in this country. You want to build a a new world economy but restrict the very access and freedoms that is required. You need a multicultural society as long as its on your exact terms. You hold awards for press freedom yet the Internet Free Zone is bound by the shackles of your proxy. Come on Dubai make up your minds, move into the 21st century. Your choice!!!

3964 days ago

The brevity of my earlier message was associated with the profound belief that since there is no mechanism in which public opinion is a means to address and change governmental regulation, this move would also be permanent. In hindsight, the message should have spelled out the points: First off : To the views expressed by Mr. Adil Mirza : Thank you sir. But honestly can you say that the governmental view on the moral code is public? Does the very page that restrict access to any site say why that site has been blocked in the first place? Is there an online charter as to what is deemed offensive in the first place. If there is please do feel free to direct me to it; I am yet to come across anything of this nature. Governments as such practice duplicity(no country is exempt), it is up to the citizens to rectify or bring these issues to light. Asking them to do so after curtailing their freedom is akin to tying their hands behind their backs and giving them cement shoes to facilitate easy movement. To Dil : If sarcasm is lost on you maybe we should pepper the comments with smiley or start and end quote marks. This might be hard to comprehend so I will spell it out to you : It was meant to be mildly humourous and sarcastic. Look up the internet usage statistics. Usage statistics from 2002 would suggest 48% (the number is higher on other evaluations ) of the traffic was related to pornography, however as of date the single biggest chunk is related to personal web use (blogs, networking sites). The fastest growing areas are Asia and the Middle East (this area records maximum growth in numbers in the period 2000 to 2007). Contrary to what you believe "an open net" does not lead to child abuse. One can use it one's advantage to educate the general public to these evils. Closing your eyes does not make it go away and again please do force a rethink if you think child abuse and "other stuff" do not exist within the UAE. Could it be you have not heard of it because of the stringent regulation in place? I would even go out on a limb and say that I am currently better informed from where I operate than an individual within the UAE as I have access to certain websites whose owners write based on first person accounts. Here is another thought. I grew up in the Middle East and knew no other place as home. I love the country with my heart and soul. I draw comparisons to it, about the security these places offer (it is unparalleled). (If I went out for a stroll at 3 am in certain quarters in France or some neighborhoods of London or for that matter downtown Brooklyn, I would be asking for a mugging, rape or both.) I want my home to improve and hence the concern. Growth is fostered by asking shareholders to give the regulators and policy makers their views. Until openness is fostered the place simply cannot grow. The standard call to "Go back to your country" does not hold good. The very fact that I have grown up here makes it, in a way, my country. Even if the lawmakers refuse to acknowledge that it does not mean I am equal to a citizen. I have worked here for 5 years and have contributed to its growth. Have you ever thought that of the 5.6 million people in the UAE, if those who really did not like a specific thing just left, how many would be left? Hopefully with the dropping dollar and the rising Asian markets you may still get your wish in the near future. As to the arbitrariness of policy, I will leave you with this thought : Orkut is a networking site owned by Google. Facebook by Microsoft (partly). Orkut is banned. Facebook is not. Business as usual ? Me thinks NOT.

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