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WhatsApp-ening in Saudi?
Skype, Whatsapp and other programs may be permanently suspended for users
March 25, 2013 1:35 by Muhammad Aldalou
Skype, Whatsapp and Viber are just some of the applications currently under threat of being barred in Saudi Arabia. In fact, any programs that provide conversation and visual communication over encrypted connections are running the risk of being blocked because they ‘do not comply with government regulations’.
Over the past 20 days, heads of telecom companies and the Communications and Information Technology Commission in Saudi Arabia have been meeting quite regularly for discussions. An Arabic daily (Sabq) in the kingdom says that – according to ‘two informed sources – the urgent implementation of monitoring servers was on the top of their agenda.
According to the report, the sources stressed that the decision was purely ‘in accordance with regulatory procedures’ and not at all tied with commercial motives.
The meetings have ended on the note that the CITC is demanding the right to monitor all encrypted applications. In a nutshell, if the owners of these platforms don’t provide a monitoring solution by the end of this week, they may very well be barred completely.
Twitter has for sometime been a source of controversy in Saudi Arabia, with many warnings being issued about the freedom of tweeting. Gulf Business reports that Abdel Aziz Khoga, Saudi’s minister for media and culture, has recently confirmed censorship of the network by the Kingdom’s government bodies.
“People have to take care of what they are writing on Twitter,” he said to Al Watan.
As for the UAE, programs like Skype have simply caused more confusion than actual controversy. For years, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) has been blocked in the Emirates and yet many users confess to still using it. In fact, earlier last week, the national media reported that du subscribers were able to access Skype freely but the telecom operator in Dubai didn’t elaborate on the subject except to deny the claims.
Kipp recently asked Cristian Cussan, head of EMEA Marketing for Google Plus, whether their Google Hangout (VoIP) feature was at risk of being illegal, to which he said that they haven’t faced any problems yet.