Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How the open net closed its doors

A BBC post today has the above title. It's well worth reading, although it does not refer directly to our corner of the Sandlands.

Back last year I found the following posted by the organization OPENNET.NET. The UAE prevents its citizens from accessing a significant amount of Internet content spanning a variety of topics, though the majority of sites filtered appear to be those deemed obscene. Outside the free zones, the state employs SmartFilter software to block content such as nudity, sex, dating, gambling, cults/occult, religious conversion, and drugs. Sites containing anonymizer, hacking, translation, and VoIP applications are also filtered in this manner. The manual blocking of the entire Israeli domain is indicative of the government’s political opposition to the Israeli state, rather than to the particular contents of the Web sites hosted there. Though most political sites and news sources are accessible throughout the country, a handful are blocked. It remains to be seen how severely the enforcement of TRA policies in the free zone and affiliated residential clusters will hamper access to Internet content and transform the traditionally unrestricted information environment in those areas.

This question is now answered. Now even users in the free zone, home to countless media enterprises whose very raison d'etre is communication and information are now protected from websites delivering
slander, defamation and vilification against Dubai (which is the TRA's dismissal of a blogger who points out from time to time that all is not necessarily for the best in this best possible of worlds).

At the same time we learn that in Qatar a quota of twenty-per-cent of nationals is to be introduced for local enterprises. I would fully encourage any measures which encourage the native populations of the region to be involved in productive. But surely they must have access to the tools needed for their job? And is information - the unrestricted access to the same information that their colleagues in other societies regard as a basic right - not the most fundamental tool in building a knowledge-based society?

On the open internet there is a huge quantity of content which I find offensive, inimical to my own "cultural and moral sentiments". I avoid them. Period.

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