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Saudi regulator bans Viber

Web voice platform outlawed as CITC seeks to control Internet communications

Web app Viber is now banned in the kingdom.
Web app Viber is now banned in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia's telecom regulator, the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), has issued a statement prohibiting use of communications platform Viber, Reuters reported today.

"The Viber application has been suspended ... and the [regulator] affirms it will take appropriate action against any other applications or services if they fail to comply with regulatory requirements and rules in force in the kingdom," the CITC said in its statement, which was posted on the regulator's website.

The ban follows months of uncertainty over the future of a range of social media and communication tools that the kingdom has been unable to monitor. The statement did not make clear whether the CITC had found a way to block Viber, which can be used through a virtual private network (VPN), Web-enabled software that disguises a user's IP so that they appear to be in another country.

Twitter, WhatsApp and Skype are included in the CITC's list of apps that do not conform to regulatory requirements in a market that has seen a massive surge in Internet and smartphone penetration.

In early April the CITC tasked operators within the kingdom to find ways of blocking some communications platforms such as Skype and Viber, which allow account holders to circumvent national carriers and place voice calls over the Web, a practice thought to be common among the large expatriate populations found in the Gulf region.