Dubai to segregate the Web
In a bid to crackdown on ‘immoral imaginings’, the Dubai government has segregated the Internet, barring men and women access to sites officials believe encourage ‘flirtatious behavior’. Will it work?
April 1, 2009 8:57 by Jess Kiddink
In an attempt to put the brakes on online flirting, authorities in Dubai have announced plans to introduce what will effectively be a segregated Internet, divided according to gender.
The Dubai Behavioral Monitoring Authority (DBMA), part of the Telecoms Regulatory Authority, said at a press conference in Dubai yesterday that “before the summer,” all Internet activity in the emirate will have to take place through a government portal requiring a log-in name and password. Users of the Web will be required to apply in person at selected DBMA locations and post offices for their login credentials, at which point their gender will be noted. “To avoid fraudulence, application for passwords will only be available in person and not online,” a spokesman said.
Certain sites will be blocked depending on the gender of the Web surfer. Women will be excluded from viewing motoring sites, sports and gaming sites, political pages of news portals and large sections of video sharing sites such as YouTube. Men will not be allowed access to numerous personal care and women’s fashion sites, according to the DBMA, which claims the blocks are designed “to prevent inappropriate aspirations and immoral imaginings.”
Contrary to media reports, however, not all sections of the Internet will be split between men and women, explained the spokesman. Certain chat forums deemed socially and ethical sound by the authorities, and limited areas of social networking sites such as Facebook will be available to all users, regardless of gender. DBMA approved matrimonial sites will also be gender indifferent, although they are thought to be closely monitored by the government already. And the password-login system will mean users can more easily be tracked.
The news follows the publication of a code of conduct by the Dubai Executive Council (DEC) as part of the government’s campaign to curb inappropriate behavior in public.
To catch surfers abusing stolen or borrowed passwords, or “behaving inappropriately” on shared sections of the Web, software similar to that used by terrorism monitoring units will be used. The algorithms of this software, more often used to check email, instant messaging and even VoIP communications for suspicious usage of words such as “bomb,” “security,” “Acme” or “Salinger,” will be adapted to monitor for “flirtatious behavior.”
All Internet users over the age of 11 will be required to register. Full-time students can get their user names and passwords through their schools, the spokesman said. More information on the segregated Web is expected to be announced by the DBMA tomorrow morning.