More 'acceptable' censorship – internet in the Middle East

On the topic of censorship, did you know that many countries in the Middle East regulate public and private ISPs by maintaining a ‘black list’ of certain websites to be blocked from public access?

Online marketers should pay special attention to what sites are on this black list if they plan on reaching consumers in the MENA (Middle East & North Africa) market through viral or non-viral online marketing initiatives.

The folks at code.ae are having fun with the impact of internet censorship in the United Arab Emirates.

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Despite the inconvenience of censorship, an OpenInitiative study cites an interesting statistic from a 2002 UAE government survey of subscribers to the government-controlled internet service provider ‘Etisalat‘. Etisalat (Arabic for ‘communications’) blocks anything “inconsistent with the political, moral, and religious value of the United Arab Emirates.”

60% of survey participants indicated that “its (Etisalat) role in protecting users from offensive material is considered to be an acceptable form of censorship.” Government intervention is seen much like Parental Control options offered by Canadian ISPs.

Many North American ISPs have fallen into controversy when providing services in countries with ‘unique’ cultural requirements. Anyone remember last year’s controversy over Microsoft deleting all the intellectual content of the Chinese blogger Zhao Jing? Or in 2005 when Yahoo! released personal email information to the Chinese government of Chinese journalist Shi Tao, who was then charged with “leaking secret government information” and sentenced to 10 years in jail?

Are you or someone you know affected by internet censorship? Do you have a story to share?

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Issmat A.

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