UAE censor targets Facebook, Myspace

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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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Posted by: IncidentFlux

Growing up in UAE, I've noticed the best thing these blocks have done, is pushed none technical people to learn how to bypass them effictively and efficently, and in turn they've have gotten more security aware in the process, and some of them even made careers out of it. China, UAE and KSA probably have the most tech aware populations TCP/IP networking wise in the world. TRA, sincere thanks for making everyone think!

Posted by: Paul

The UAE tries hard to convince foreigners that the UAE is a modern place with an 'attractive' lifestyle, and then imposes nanny-state censorship to try to impose its own cultural identity on those very people it is trying to attract. Dating is a sin? Since when!?

Posted by: Tom

It is true. Any ban always has a workaround and there are always smart people who will cater to the demand created by such a ban. I'm an expat and live in Al Qusais and still I access every website in the world including Skype services! I?m a happy camper now!!! :D I think TRA should trust its population to be mature enough to self-censor what they feel inappropriate.

Posted by: Gaurav Tahiliani

The UAE is targeting many tourists from around the world and they want to make their country one of the best places in the world with loads of foreign residents... But they will not succeed if they block so many websites especially Facebook. They have already blocked Orkut... and facebbok is on the way...

Posted by: Vincent O. Moh

I don't see why the UAE thinks it can block - Very few people are actually UAE citizens and many foreigners live on there, so cultural reasons fizzle. I would think that everyone in the UAE knows how to proxy. It's likely hush-hush, but of course that's how things go.

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