UAE censor targets Facebook, Myspace

New internet restrictions on social networking will include Dubai's Media Free Zone, says telecom authority.
By Amy Glass
Thu 21 Feb 2008 01:46 PM

Sections of popular social networking websites Facebook and Myspace will be banned in the UAE under new rules from the nation’s telecom regulator, Emirates Business 24-7 reported on Thursday.

The new regulations regarding access to the internet currently being considered by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) will also apply to Dubai’s Media Free Zone, which presently has unrestricted internet access.

The Internet Penetration Policy is expected to be announced by the end of the year, clarifying the internet content that will be blocked in the Emirates.

A TRA spokesperson said the regulator wanted to encourage cultural interaction in today’s globalised world, and did not intend to deny access to websites that are social portals.

However, sections of social networking websites including Facebook and Myspace, which encouraged dating would be banned under the new policy.

Access to the areas of the websites which excluded those aspects would be allowed.

The spokesperson said the rules will open up many sites that are currently forbidden without risking the UAE’s cultural values.

“At the same time it has to be done without losing our identity, traditions, ethics, morals and culture.”

The policy will be implemented throughout the country.

Last July, the TRA said it had no plans to ban Facebook, but also said websites that offended morals, ethics and values would be targeted.

Facebook is the second most popular website in the Emirates and has more than 64 million active users worldwide.

The UAE's restrictions follow Iran's Facebook ban in September, which Syria followed in November reportedly over fears of Israeli infiltration of Syrian social networks on the website.

Burma and Bhutan are also believed to have banned the site.

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