Author Archives: moyenorient3

Saudi Arabia: prime centre of content blocking

The Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) the Internet Services Unit (ISU)

Surveillance and censorship of the Internet, relentless in the kingdom for many years, intensified after the popular uprisings in the Arab world in 2011, cutting still further the only free space where non-official views, news and information could be published. The latest target in the Saudi authorities’ sights is the video platform YouTube, which has been blocked since last December. Six months earlier, the Viber messaging service was cut off.

The main Internet Enemies are the Communication and Information Technology Commission and the Internet Services Unit. Far from concealing their actions, the authorities openly attest to their censorship practices and claim to have blocked some 400,000 sites.

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Bahrain: No Internet spring

Ministry of Interior and National Security Apparatus

Three years after the start of a popular uprising, the Bahrain monarchy continues to use all the resources at its disposal to gag those calling for democratic reforms and respect for human rights. As the Internet is now the space preferred by Bahrainis for expressing their demands and sharing information, the authorities are constantly trying to improve their Internet surveillance and censorship methods in order to contain the dissent and protect Bahrain’s international image. The two government bodies at the heart of the online crackdown are the Ministry of Interior and National Security Apparatus (NSA). Continue reading

United Arab Emirates: Tracking “cyber-criminals”

Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and cyber-crime units

Feeling threatened, the Emirati authorities took advantage of regional political tension in 2011 to step up control of information and communications with the aim shoring up the regime. They tried to impose a new blackout in 2013 on the trial of 94 Emiratis accused of links with Al-Islah (a party affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood) and conspiring against the government. Only carefully chosen national media were allowed to attend the hearing and two netizens were convicted for tweeting about the trial.

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Syria: online tracking is a family affair

Syrian Telecommunications Establishment (STE), Syrian Computer Society (SCS)

In March 2011, the government of President Bashar Al-Assad violently cracked down on peaceful demonstrations calling for democratic reforms. The authorities strengthened their control over all means of communication, including the Internet. This was relatively straightforward because of the stranglehold the authorities and the Assad family have over the telecoms infrastructure through three companies – the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment (STE), the Syrian Computer Society (SCS) and Syriatel. These companies ensured a reduction in Internet capacity in order to slow down the circulation of news and images of the demonstrations and the subsequent crackdown. With the help of units within the security services, they can deploy a whole armoury of weapons to monitor the Web and trace activists and dissidents.

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