Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Facebook, MySpace & YouTube bans in the region: Cultural threshold crossed

It was bound to happen. Social networks are really pushing the boundaries of culturally ‘acceptable’ topics, images and even videos to breaking point.

In the Arab and Islamic world, there is a certain level at which there will be complaints, followed by government intervention and censorship.

I will not be the person to say whether or not total freedom should be allowed, as it is clear to every corporation working in, or taregting, the Middle East market that there are certain religious and social norms that must be considered.

The problem with the Internet, is that it unleashes the ‘abnormal’ in these societies, and it happens so fast and attracts many users before authorities realize what’s happening. Then, as you would expect, these authorities hit the headlines locally and across the world when censorships or bans begin.

This week, reported that 'elements of the popular social networking website Facebook could be blocked to UAE net users next year. This is part of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) upcoming Internet Penetration Policy (IPP).

The report says that “the aim of the new policy is to liberate web access by more specifically defining which types of online material can be accessed and which should be blocked to surfers.”

A spokesperson said that "we do not want to deny access to websites that are social portals and encourage cultural interaction in today's globalised world. At the same time it has to be done without losing our identity, traditions, ethics, morals and culture."

The spokesman added that sections of social networking websites, such as Facebook's dating-related sections (or, more specifically, downloadable applications) would be banned, which is not the case at present.

I have to say that the approach of the UAE towards the Facebook issue is quite civilized, providing a future deadline that both warns Facebook of the consequences, and allows users to maybe get whatever they want to see or do finished before a certain point in time!

And, it’s only blocking parts of Facebook. So, the majority of users will be unaffected.

Also this week, the Pakistani Telecommunications Authority (PTA) ordered Internet service providers, to prevent people in Pakistan from visiting YouTube.

The authority cited a "highly blasphemous" video featuring right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

The block was intended to cover only Pakistan but somehow caused a tech-glitch that extended to about two-thirds of the global Internet population!

Anyway, the ban was lifted shortly afterwards, as YouTube graciously removed the video. So, government censorship sometimes gets results.

Although total freedom is supposedly what the Internet is all about, surely the same regulations that govern print and audiovisual media in Arab and Islamic countries must, at some point, also govern the latest mainstream media.

Did anyone really believe that the Internet wouldn’t be treated the same way?


At 11:29 AM , Anonymous Rawda said...

i support banning facebook and myspace. they support anti-arab content but will quickly shutdown content critical of israel and west. if facebook and myspace want to make advertising money in arab markets they have to protect our free speech too. if not, screw them...shut them all down and support arab-based social networking groups. i am sick and tired of the western double standards on human rights and free speech.

At 4:14 PM , Anonymous Zeid Nasser said...

That's a strong opinion :)

And, as someone in the advertising and media business, I tend to agree with the notion that generating audience and money from a market entails respect for its culture and norms.

That even applies in the US, right?

At 12:28 AM , Blogger Sultan Nabulsi said...

I Just Can't Understand Why as Arab we always tend to be perfect, I mean We Already Have A Plenty Of Men and Women Unmarred So When Some One give Us way To Interact With Each Other NO We Want to apply our "perfect rules" on It, I mean if We are That Good in making Stuff Lets Build Our own Arabic version Of the Facebook that Don't Let any man And Woman communicate !
U Think That The Facebook is against Your moral or religion Point Of View Don’t Open it, but don’t Start Saying We Should Close it And trim It, I May Personally Agree That there Should be an option to control The Individual Personal Account settings on Nudity Program Or massages but that’s it just Don’t stand up and Say Hey We Should Close it Down …
In another Dimension Since When Should Any Government Or any Party Control The Internet isn’t Our Flag is All about Freedom And Democracy that’s A big Contrast
Another Thing Now We Are trying To Put Limits On Social Networks What Makes Any One of us so Sure about Not Doing The Same On Other Websites That may Not Love The government or Some political party, So Now We Should Cut Any similar Web site It Doesn’t Make Since ???

- In This Comment I Don’t talk About Specific person I’m Talking about the general Idea


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