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Saudi’s “pure” YouTube
A group of people in the kingdom have started a new website to show only the “clean” content from YouTube.
August 30, 2009 10:14 by Aarti Nagraj
Saudi’s internet censorship has come under severe criticism from several human rights bodies, even as it continues to impose stricter rules.
Earlier this month, two activists accused the kingdom’s official government internet censor, the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), of blocking their Twitter pages.
Businessman Khaled al Nasser, who began using Twitter in 2007, told the AFP that his tweets covered topics related to human rights and governance issues in Saudi. Some of his tweets provided links to other websites such as a Human Rights Watch report on Saudi Arabia, which may have angered censors, he said.
“But those pages are not blocked, just my page,” he said.
Human rights lawyer Waleed Abulkhair, who also claimed that his twitter account was blocked, said that he had sent tweets about several human rights cases that he and other lawyers are pursuing. Most recently he spoke about the case of the rights lawyer Sulaiman al-Rashudi, who has been detained by police for two years without being charged or tried.
According to Nasser, his account was blocked just after he tweeted about breakfasting on fried eggs.
“Maybe they [CITC] don’t like eggs,” he jokingly told AFP.
Saudi adopted an e-crimes act in 2007, according to which offenders can face years up to 10 years in prison and fines of SR5 million ($1.3 million) for crimes such as online identity theft and running extremist websites.
In 2008, a local blogger, Fouad al-Farhan, was jailed for writing about political reforms.
A Human Rights Watch report in May 2008 also detailed the case of web critic Ra’if Badawi, who was charged with “setting up an electronic site that insults Islam.” Badawi’s website apparently detailed abuses by the Saudi religious police, and questioned the predominant interpretation of Islam. The prosecution in Jeddah asked for a five-year prison sentence and a fine of SR3 million ($800,000).
The watchdog’s report also claimed that several people hacked Badawi’s website and published his phone numbers, work address and posted threats against Badawi on the website. Badawi reportedly fled the kingdom after the incident.
A report in Business Week published last year alleged that while the country’s CITC uses software to block clear-cut violations, such as pornographic websites and gambling, it also relies on citizens to have sites blocked. Saudi residents reportedly send in roughly 1,200 requests a day for specific sites to be blocked. CITC takes action on about half of those requests, a source told the magazine.
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