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Doha Centre asks Google to reject UAE web censorship

Media freedom organization calls on Google to cease collaboration with Dubai Police on internet censorship

The Doha Centre for Media Freedom has criticized Google for collaborating with Dubai Police on web censorship.

In an open letter, the Doha Centre said that Google has a “moral obligation to take a stand on freedom of speech” and expressed concern that Dubai authorities were attempting to blackmail Google into participating in internet censorship.

The Doha Centre, an international institution that is intended to promote press freedom, said it was concerned by talks in March between Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, chief inspector of Dubai police and Giselle Hescuk, Google's head of development for Europe and the Middle East. The letter says that the Dubai Police asked Google to draw up a plan for web censorship based on a list of 500 key words.

While web censorship is already in place in the UAE, the centre was concerned that the list of banned terms had not been made public. Dubai Police requested that content that is pornographic, mocks religions, strengthens atheism, promotes new religions, fosters a feeling of insecurity or is unsuitable for young children be blocked.

The statement said: “The measures put forward and the terms used are ambiguous enough to result in the strictest sort of censorship. The proposals are based on a list of 500 key words drawn up by the Dubai police which would block access to certain sites.

“A company with the slogan ‘You can make money without doing evil’ and which is the world Internet leader has a moral obligation to take a stand on freedom of speech and act accordingly. The greater the power, the greater the responsibilities.

“Blackmail by the Dubai authorities is unacceptable. The United Arab Emirates cannot make any form of censorship a condition of access to the Internet.”