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Cleaning up the web

Cleaning up the web

A group in Saudi recently launched a “pure” YouTube, and now a company in the Netherlands has designed a “halal” search engine for Muslims.

September 1, 2009 1:18 by

A Netherlands-based company, AZS Media Group, has just launched, a search engine that only produces “halal” content (results which are appropriate for Muslims). According to the company, the English language engine uses various techniques to determine which results are “halal” and which are “haram” (inappropriate).

“The lack of tools for Muslims to be able to continue their online activities responsibly has inspired to enter the search engine market,” the company says in its press release.

The growing presence of Muslims online seems to be leading to the creation of a number of niche websites to cater to their specific needs.

Very recently, a group in Saudi developed a new website called NaqaTube in order to show only “clean” content from video sharing website YouTube (naqa means “pure” in Arabic). NaqaTube censors video clips that are against the government, individuals and scholars, or that “mock people in general,” reported Arab News. Women’s images and music are forbidden; instead the site hosts clips of Arab scholars giving lectures and Islamic discourse.

One of the moderators of the website, who did not wish to reveal his name, told the paper that clips on NaqaTube are religiously safe, and any content considered inappropriate is edited out before being uploaded.

“Our dream is to decline the number of visitors to YouTube. Our website has received from 5,000 to 6,000 visitors since its launch two months ago,” he said.

He added that the website’s logo is “Participate With Us In a Clean Website.”

But countries like the UAE and Saudi already censor the Internet, blocking websites they consider unsuitable to their country’s values. Sites dealing with porn, dating, gambling, alcohol, drugs, and homosexuality are all banned.

And earlier this month a new study released by the OpenNet Initiative (ONI), which studies Internet filtering and surveillance practices across the world, claimed that governments in the Middle East and North Africa are clamping down on web freedom.

According to the study, online censorship is rising in the region and sophisticated technology is being used to filter and monitor Internet activities.

In such a scenario, do you think it is actually profitable to create websites with self-censoring mechanisms? Or is this just a way to be different and create some publicity?

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