Dubai free zone no longer has filter-free Internet access

du blockpage

ONI's preliminary investigation found that Dubai's ISP, du, which started filtering the Internet on April 14, 2008, targets sexual materials as well as politically oriented content. Examples of political sites blocked include and Secret Dubai blog, both of which have content critical of UAE. Other examples of non-pornographic Web sites blocked include the wikipedia article on the controversial movie "fitna".

Users who attempt to access banned content receive a blockpage saying, "This website is not available in the UAE. The internet offers us a great opportunity to communicate, share knowledge and do good. Unfortunately, the website you are trying to access has content that might hurt the religious, cultural and moral sentiments of our fellow users in the UAE."

This new filtering regime targets content deemed to offend the "moral, social and cultural values" of the UAE as regulated by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) guidelines, but access to popular websites such as Skype and Facebook will not be prevented, du CEO told, in an attempt to allay fears that Web sites needed by businesses could be banned. He also added,

“People are worried about their businesses but these access restrictions could not be to websites necessary for business. [However] the TRA will listen to legitimate requests from businesses that need access to certain places, and can come to arrangements” he said.

Three days before the implementation of this filtering system, a media story reported complains from du users that "inappropriate" content such as adult Web sites is accessible on the du network.

It remains to be seen how this new censorship will affect the businesses in the free zone, especially those in Dubai Media City, the only global media hub in the region, whose mission is "to become an efficient and leading provider of services to foster the growth of Dubai’s knowledge based economy."

Analysis of the scope and depth of du's Internet filtering will be published in future ONI research.