Online Censorship Report : Internet in Dubai
In Dubai and the UAE, the internet connection is fast and reliable, much better than it is in any of the major cities in the world. Every house seems to be connected to the internet at an affordable rate. On the other hand, the internet is supervised with a great firewall blocking out numerous websites.
The internet censorship policy in Dubai is determined by the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA). The telecommunications companies, Etisalat and Du, have no power at all. This can be seen in that there are certain areas within the Du telecom network that barely have censorship if at all. These zones include the Dubai Media Zone as well as TECOM region. However, the TRA was determined to put those areas under restraint between 2008 and 2009.
Even though the network is censored, it is much better unlike countries such as China or Iran. The news is rarely censored no matter how critical it may be. The censorship policy targets sites that are connected to pornography, gambling, dating and religious or culturally offensive content. Blocking porn seems to go well with the citizen in the UAE as it is culturally up right. On the other hand, from those who are eager to access the blocked websites, have a virtual private network (VPN) that can be used to get around the firewall. However, the VPNs were illegalized by the police in March 2015, and its usage could lead to additional charges.
Despite all this, the censorship of various Wikipedia pages is causing uproar among the internet users. Skype was also blocked until 2013. VOIP, couchsurfing.org and other sites, however, are still blocked in the country. When it comes to feline related materials, there is no result available. It may also be impossible to do research on gambling and casinos.
Whenever a particular website is restricted, the user will receive a network error or a blank page making it clear that the site is beyond reach. The UAE telecom companies and authorities are not clear and open as to the reason they block out the sites and which sites are blocked.
In 2012, there was a list of all website categories that were blocked by the TRA. They included the following categories:
1. Contradictory content against morals and ethics in UAE such as dating and nudity. However, certain marriage forums are allowed in the country
2. Expressions of hate to religion
3. Content not compatible with the UAE laws such as news from the Israelis
4. Information on manufacturing, buying and promoting of illegal drugs and narcotics
5. Sites that encourage phishing, hacking or spying
6. Gambling-related content
7. Content with details on how to access blocked sites
It is very vital that expatriates and visitors to Dubai are keen on the cybercrime laws. There was an expat Ryan Pate, who was working for Global Aerospace Logistics (GAL) in Abu Dhabi who had fallout with his boss over sick leave. When he returned to Florida, he went to Facebook to post of his frustrations. Little did he know it would put him in trouble with the authorities in the UAE.
On returning to Abu Dhabi, he was requested to report to the police station where there was evidence of his post through snapshots. He was immediately arrested for breaking the nation’s cyber laws that had been introduced in 2012. The BBC specified that mockery of organizations and individuals online is not tolerated. After serving 10days in jail, he left on bail. He would face five years in prison as well as a $50,000 fine.
Besides the pornography sites, alcoholic sites are banned as well. In this case, you may want to use phrases like grape beverages and hops in place of wine or beers respectively. This change of words is because the alcoholic drinks are offensive to the Islam religion. The most critical information that you need to be careful when getting involved in is the UAE government or any of the ruling families which can put an individual in a lot of trouble.
During the property crash and financial situation in Dubai, information was only available from all other foreign newspapers and media houses in general. The restrictions in Dubai lay heavily on the Middle East Broadcasting Network (MBN) which kept getting into trouble for any supposed negative information.
Social networks are not left out when it comes to the restrictions. There are several Facebook and Twitter handles that had been banned due to the content that they were posting. Flickr and YouTube had also been banned. These networks are believed to pollute the ethics, culture, and religion of the individuals in the country. Additionally, Skype and Viber was restricted hence keeping the communication between family and friends strained especially for foreigners.
The regulations may be strict but for any individual who wants to get through to a certain site would get their way. While using public Wi-Fi, however, you must be careful since anyone could hack into your private device whether a phone or a laptop compromising your confidentiality. It wasn’t until 2015 when VPNs were often used before the police made them illegal.
In November 2007, the broadcast of two Pakistani satellite news channels that had been connected to Dubai Media City. The channels had initially been marketed as channels with “Freedom to Create.” TECOM was ordered by the Dubai government to shut down the news channels; Geo News and ARY One World. However, in the end, the channels were allowed to air the entertainment programs.
The rest of the world will never come to terms with the firewalls in Dubai. However, the citizens appreciate the laws at it helps keep their people morally upright avoiding certain vices within their community. Most of the foreigners who go to Dubai cannot stand the restraint access and work on getting around the firewalls and at times getting themselves in trouble. It is better to respect and embrace the laws of a particular country, especially as a guest. The regulations in Dubai are not as strict as there are in other nations such as China. With time, most of the laws have been adjusted to accommodate the needs of their people.