Internet Censorship in Saudi

Saudi Arabia has one of the most restrictive Internet filters in the world, yet according to BusinessWeek news reports, the Saudi censorship regime is vastly unlike that of most countries. Employing a mere twenty-five people, the country’s Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) uses software to “block broad swaths” of the Internet, while relying on citizens who send 1,200 requests daily for offensive sites to be blocked to cover the rest of the Internet.

In addition to pornography and online gambling, which are filtered by the CITC software, Saudi citizens (mostly students and religious figures) voluntarily filter cites that they deem offensive, including those that violate religious and cultural mores. According to consultant Khalid Baheyeldin, “there’s a feeling of moral conviction that obliges people to have these sites blocked.”

As far as blogging is concerned, the majority of the country’s 2,000 bloggers post anonymously, fearing repercussions. Earlier this year a local blogger was jailed for advocating political reforms.

CITC states that only 40 percent of Saudi citizens are concerned with Internet filtration. Haitham Abu Aisha, general manager of a Riyadh ISP claims that censorship can be defined “in many ways.” “We want censorship of pornography and harsh ideas,” he continues. Regardless of the interpretation or voluntary aspect of Saudi’s censorship regime, this type of Internet filtration violates the right to free access of online content.