Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


UAE blocks social networking websites

UAE blocks social networking websites

by Ron Callari

The network StumbleUpon has become the latest casualty of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) web blocking lottery. It is a sad commentary when social networking and content sharing sites get auto-blocked by Etisalat, one of the UAE’s largest telecommunications and Internet providers.

StumbleUpon, which is owned by eBay, is a Web browser plug-in and internet community that allows its users to discover and rate Web pages, photos, and videos

The site joins other social networking services banned by Etisalat, including micro-blogging service Twitter, social networking site Orkut, and the photo sharing platform Flickr.

It is curious that while these sites are blocked to Etisalat customers, those connecting through the country’s rival operator du are still able to access them.

Paradoxically, while Etisalat’s website encourages its subscribers to “find new markets… in international markets,” it obviously doesn’t alert them that as Big Brother, it will control exactly which markets they deem appropriate.

What is most disturbing to me personally is that a social networking website that I built on July 13, 2008 was censored in the UAE the following day, on July 14, 2008. The Hotel SEO Executives is a group that tallies only 20 members to date. It is a network of hoteliers and SEO executives worldwide that collaboratively exchange ideas and information pertaining to search engine optimization in the hotel industry. Hardly a threatening group! Definitely not an organization that would harm “the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates!” But yet a Hyatt Dubai hotel executive was blocked by Etisalat from registering on just that site.

I understand the desire among the leader's of the UAE to protect their culture, and in particular, their children. By all means, carry on blocking adult content, or hate sites, even gambling, but randomly blocking the next generation of online services for no reason doesn't help anyone.

Given some of the licentious material online today, I applaud their concern. However, the current regulatory regime and the way the rules are implemented goes beyond the need for protection. Blocking these sites doesn't just cut social and economic opportunity today; it hinders educational and societal development tomorrow.
A generation raised with Internet services that are curtailed and shut off won't become the next generation of thought leaders. We can’t afford closed communication in today’s world. Wars have been started for less, as we are all painfully aware.

Prophetically, Etisalat’s advertising tagline is “Reach out. The world’s waiting.” Yes, indeed, we should all be indignantly waiting… for a world that does not impose restrictions, without a sound rationale!


Ron Callari is the Chief Marketing Officer of iOptimize Marketing, an Internet marketing firm, and a freelance journalist and editorial cartoonist whose work has appeared in Alternet, Counterpunch, Sacramento News & Review, Albion Monitor and the World and I. Ron is the Group Administrator of the Hotel SEO Executives.

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Scoop HiveMind Project: Universal Basic Income - Are We Up For It?

This is an opportunity for you as one of the 4 million potential funders and recipients of a Universal Basic Income to collectively consider the issue:
1. Is UBI is a desirable policy for New Zealand; and
2. How should a UBI system work in practice. More>>


Lyndon Hood: National Announces Plan To Hit Youth With Big Mallets

The National party has announced its youth justice policy, which includes a controversial plan for recidivist serious youth offenders to be hit over the head with a comically large rubber mallet. More>>


Lyndon Hood: This ->

It's been brought to my attention that Labour's new campaign slogan is "Let's do this". A collective call to action. A mission. I myself was halfway out of the couch before I realised I wasn't sure what it was I was supposed to do. More>>


Scoop Hivemind Report: What New Zealanders Think About Affordable Housing

Ordinary citizens have had very few venues where they can debate and discuss as to what they believe has led to the crisis in affordable housing and how we might begin to address this. The HiveMind on affordable housing was about redressing the balance. More>>


New Hivemind Exploration: Opening The Election - Freshwater Quality

This is an opportunity for you as one of the 4 million guardians of our common water resources to help us find mutually agreeable solutions to the critical task of collectively managing these resources for health and sustainability. More>>


  • PublicAddress
  • Pundit
  • Kiwiblog