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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Saudi Arabia blocks access to blogger.com

No eating, no drinking, no sex and no blogging.

Saudi agency blocks access to blogger.com

Reporters Without Borders today called on the Internet Services Unit (ISU), the agency that manages Web filtering in Saudi Arabia, to explain why the weblog creation and hosting service blogger.com has been made inaccessible since 3 October, preventing Saudi bloggers from updating their blogs.

“Saudi Arabia is one of the countries that censors the Internet the most, but blog services had not until now been affected by the ISU’s filters,” the press freedom organisation said. “The complete blocking of blogger.com, which is one of the biggest blog tools on the market, is extremely worrying. Only China had so far used such an extreme measure to censor the Internet.”

Reached by Reporters Without Borders, the ISU recognised that it had blocked access to blogger.com but did not give any reason. Blogger.com is the point of entry to the management interface for all the weblogs hosted on this tool. In other words, this is the webpage bloggers need to access to update their blogs. According to our tests, names under the blogger.com domain (for example, www.myblog.blogger.com) are not however being filtered. This means that Saudi Internet users can still access the blogs hosted on this service.

The Saudi authorities acknowledge blacklisting more than 400,000 websites. A very wide range of sites are affected, including political organisations, non-recognised Islamist movements and publications containing any kind of reference to sexuality.

The ISU (www.isu.net.sa) is the agency in charge of the Saudi Web censorship system. It manages the gateway used by all local ISPs and is thus able to control all Internet data exchanges. However, it just carries out instructions issued by the Saudi security services and does not itself decided what must be censored. The ISU offers an online form and e-mail address (abuse@isu.net.sa) that allows Internet uses to report what sites they would like to see blocked. Hundreds of such requests are received each day and are dealt with by a team assigned full-time to the job. The ISU’s filtering system uses technology acquired from the US company Secure Computing.

Blogger.com is a service provided by the US company Google.


Meanwhile, the Pentagon has notified the U.S. Congress of possible military sales to Saudi Arabia valued at more than $2 billion.

Great "democracy building".

I'm actually more suprised that it took this long for them to block it!
Oh no! I've just added this Saudi blog to my blogroll! I'll guess that I'll have to remove it!

I wish that Bush would shine his Democracy and Freedom light on the KSA. You would think that Bush would use his close personal relationship with the Royal family to open up the political process.

Being the cynic that I am. I think that US interests in the short run are best served by this archaic autocracy with its censorship laws.
The long run is another story.

Issam, you are right. When it comes to Saudi and other nations, democratization is the last on the list (this includes, sadly, Iraq). Oil is much more important. There's also the "stabilization" business. A stable and friendly autocratic regime is much better than a rampant and uncontrollable democracy (think Egypt). But I'm stating the obvious. US foreign policy has always been short-sighted and (understandably) interests-focused, thanks to the hydro-carbon addiction and other ailments.
BTW, Mubarak is in the KSA trying to cut a deal for his friend Bashar a la kaddaffi. This what I always argued would happen.

There is a consistent political line for the Assad Dynasty from 1967 to now in the service of Western interests. Look at what the Israelis are saying:

Assad still has a role to play for some.

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