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Thu 21 Feb 2008 01:46 PM

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UAE censor targets Facebook, Myspace

New internet restrictions on social networking will include Dubai's Media Free Zone, says telecom authority.

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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Firozali A.Mulla MBA PhD 12 years ago

I welcome this news. I think there are other sites and also the authorities would be advised to look into a close look and close this too. The sites all that welcome you a friend, in a group, needs a check. This will tell many net cafes also to be careful. In economics we say there is no free lunch, How come we are given free here the friend of all sorts? What are more the sites are doing not have the real friends. The site operates lure you to talk and then slot in, “Pleases subscribe for dollars 9.90 per annum, or premium 25. and gold 56.00 I thank you Firozali A.Mulla MBA PhD

Raj 12 years ago

I think Facebook it is a clean community from what I can see. I have never come across anything untoward.

sana 12 years ago

Don't networks have anything else to do. Last year they blocked Orkut and know this time they are planning to restrict Facebook. It's not worth it. Facebook websites help us to gain more knowledge with the help of groups or even can remain in touch with friends.

Salah 12 years ago

To be honest people from this region are very big hypocrites. There are things going on by the people of the very nations who are trying to block these sites that are far worse than just dating or networking. We all know this. This is just another way the "regulator" is trying to suppress all this and the people from the outside world. Look at the countries who have all blocked these; all oppressive governments with big human rights and social issues.

sean wilson 12 years ago

Its' ironic how they call it "Internet Free Zone". Just another government filter. Ask the government how many shark attacks there were in the past 5 years.

T Crowe 12 years ago

Facebook and myspace offer much more than the possible negative issue. The dating aspect is one very small segment of these online communities. I utilize myspace as a learning project for my students in Sociology. They build a myspace page and make friends from around the world to learn about their respective cultures and "the life" through bloging the information. The commonalities found by my students who are exploring the world through accessing these cyber communities brings understanding and respect for our world of global diversity. We find universal interests which include, art, cinima, enviromental issues, family, fashion, hobbies, literature, music, sports, religion, etc. I have found that the positive aspects far outweighed the negative. I personally have met people from all over the world. I have even made trips around the world to visit my"cyber-friends" in their homelands with inturns creates real-life friends. I would have never been able to open the door of goodwill to meet these wonderful individuals if I did not have access to (myspace / facebook) online networking communities. We are all aware of the negative aspects of the internet. However, we must also acknowledge the great possibilities offered by these on-line cyber communities for bridging cultures and societies, to know the people of the world. T Crowe O'Rourke Semler www.myspace.com/tcrowesemler

Anthea 12 years ago

After leaving my "home country" where all my old friends and family are, it is nice to be able to "bump" into them in FaceBook. If you are not looking to find new "friends" you will not find them. This is a site were good old friends can find each other. I love FaceBook in that I can find my old friends that maybe had I been living in the same country I would have bumped into. If you need to block the dating site do so, but please allow us to contact our old friends, Who Remembers Me has already been blocked!

Leo 12 years ago

Amazing you can be so well educated and still have a mind so closed it cannot understand that it's not the site that's bad but the people who abuse it. For most people it's a useful tool for keeping in touch with friends and relatives we are distanced from; not enforced "friendships"

Reshma Tahiliani 12 years ago

If the UAE wishes to retain its culture, traditions and values, I think that Facebook is not its only threat. Inviting people from various cultural affiliations to live in this country could create influences that are foreign and strange to the local culture. Moreover, it is known that whenever any Government prohibits something, the attraction to it grows stronger and people find ways to circumvent the restrictions. Making people more aware of the dangers of Facebook and initiating online debates and dialogues are better solutions. Millions are connected to Facebook and it is a meeting point for old and new friends. Banning Facebook would mean banning friends from meeting online. How does it help to ban camaraderie?

sam 12 years ago

I think every adult person can censor and control his browsing, no need for censoring by Etisalat. If any one doesn't like a site, he or she should not enter it, if your morals are strong enough than you can censor yourself, also censoring makes browsing very slow and sometimes they censor medical sites and news sites and telecommunications sites for the benefit of Etisalat.