Internet Filtering in the UAE

Table of Contents

Introduction

20% of The United Arabs Emirates consists of native citizens while eighty percent of the country is populated by expatriates. Any sort of censorship affects more foreigners than locals. They are likely to object to filtering more than the locals, and future expatriates may be dissuaded from working in that country as a result. The country stands to lose a lot if its internet filtering practices are upheld. When one visits a politically or sexually oriented website, one will get a notification to let the user know that the content he or she is trying to access has been deliberately blocked because it is likely to affect other UAE users’ sentiments. The major problem with this statement is that most UAE users have divergent moral, religious, and cultural sentiments. Assuming that the government can decide for an expatriate-filled nation what its values are is highly egotistical of them. Most foreigners in this country do not agree with these sentiments and are immensely frustrated by internet censorship. Their frustrations can be seen by the increased use of circumvention techniques to access the filtered websites (Dutton et al., 2011). There is no clear procedure that has been articulated to the public on what criteria the UAE uses to determine what the people’s values are.

Main body

If the country continues to sensor its internet websites, then it could hamper businesses around the country. It is a given fact that over-censorship does occur, and this implies that some neutral websites can be wrongly filtered. Businesses may sometimes require information from such websites, and if they cannot access them, then their operations may be severely impeded. This would be a problem for the country because its economy will be impeded. Dubai wants to be a leading “knowledge-based economy”, but such decisions will prevent the country from achieving this goal.

If the UAE filters the internet, then chances are that freedom of expression in this country will be greatly reduced. Internet censorship is largely recognized as an indicator of reduced freedom of expression. If the country prides itself on being a developed nation then there should be no room for limitation of human rights. Even though the UAE is predominantly Islamic, people who hold opposing views to this state-endorsed religion should be allowed to air their views. Even natives who were born as Muslims should be in a position to convert to other religions and talk about these experiences to the general public (Dutton et al., 2011). Furthermore, persons of different cultural inclinations, such as gays and lesbians should be allowed to put across their beliefs on the internet without limitations. Women should be allowed to garner change and talk about equality amongst their peers on the internet. If the government decides to target particular groups such as non-Muslims or gays, then it is demonstrating that it undermines their natural human rights and liberties; this is indicative of a poorly developed democracy. Perhaps the most worrying thing about the suppression of human rights; especially in the Middle East is the unrest that may result from this issue. Countries such as Tunisia have shown the world that it is simply unacceptable to trample over the rights of the public. Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, and Yemen are also other countries that have experienced immense unrest due to government oppression of their rights. If the locals feel that their freedoms are being severely undermined, then they may be prompted to start civil wars just like their counterparts in other parts of the world (Dutton et al., 2011).

Once it has been proven that politically targeted internet filtering does exist in this country, then one can say that the ruling government is repressive or authoritarian. Countries such as China have been categorized as such owing to their excessive internet filters. This government does not tolerate opposing groups that represent a threat to its reign. For instance, it continually targeted the Tibetan group websites and other religious groups that seemed to hold opposing political views. As a result, this nation has been branded as authoritarian by other parts of the world. Similarly, if the UAE is found to be practicing political censorship on the internet, then it can be categorized as repressive and authoritarian just like China. This is not only bad for its citizens, but it also affects the country’s image. The UAE has largely been recognized as an economic powerhouse, but continuing to censor political content on the internet will undermine opinions about the country’s politics (Dutton et al., 2011).

When a country censors internet content through technical methods such as internet protocol blocking, then chances are that over or under-blocking may arise. The most threatening form of censorship would be over-blocking because this prevents genuine internet users from gaining access to their materials in the country. Even though a government has invested huge lump sums in internet filtration technologies, it is always likely that not all the intended material will be blocked as expected. The filtration technology may provide greater protection than had been previously intended, and this may not always be a good thing. For example, internet software designed to block the sexually offensive word ‘cunt’ may result in blockage of the name ‘Scunthorpe’, which is a location in the UK. Sometimes, other forms of censorship can lead to the blockage of a whole internet protocol address. In other words, they may deny access to all websites that may be hosted by an internet protocol server even when those websites do not contain offensive material (Dutton et al., 2011).

Economic censorship can also be identified as another problem for the UAE if it can be established that it carries out particular kinds of internet censorship. Services such as Skype often allow users to make long-distance phone calls at very low prices, and this means that profits will be diverted from local service providers. Once the government restricts access to Skype and other similar websites, then this forces expatriates to use local services to make international phone calls. Migrant workers have to stay in touch with their families, and the local firms would continue to make more money. This undermines the laws of competition and encourages a great level of economic censorship in the country; a fact that would undercut future investments in telecommunications (Dutton et al., 2011).

Conclusion

A vast number of people use the internet as a source of research. Some of them may be researching seemingly sensitive topics such as gambling. Not everyone who searches for the term ‘gambling’ may intend on gambling; some may be doing some useful academic work. Internet filtration has no way of assessing a user’s intention, and this would prevent important work from taking place. If the United Arab Emirates censors this term, then it could be a big part of this problem.

International jurisdictional concerns have also been cited as other reasons why internet filtration could be problematic to the country. Certain matters go beyond local environments and should be accessible to all people who may need them. As a result, filtering these websites can create legal problems for international stakeholders. If the UAE continues with this censorship program, then it could break those international laws and may need to answer to the governing authorities on the same. Overall, internet censorship presents challenges in the maintenance of efficient, reliable, and transparent communication systems in any country; the UAE is not an exception.

References

Dutton, W., Dopatka, A., Law, G. & Nash, V. (2011). Freedom of connection, freedom of expression: the changing legal and regulatory ecology shaping the internet. UNESO Conference, Paris, 103

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