OpenNet Initiative: Bulletin 002

March 22, 2004

- Screen Captures
- Enumeration Results
- Methodology & Limitations
- About OpenNet Initiative

As reported by Reporters Without Borders the LGBT news and information web site,, has been blocked in Saudi Arabia. In addition, the popular web sites,, and have also been blocked. [1, 2]

Despite being readily accessible locally (from a non-filtered location), the websites were inaccessible when accessed through computers in Saudi Arabia. Instead, of the requested content a message was displayed indicating that the requested website could not be accessed. Further testing has revealed that the web site of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) [] along with the Gay and Lesbian Arabic Society (GLAS) [] have also been blocked.

913 URL's were retrieved from the Google search engine using "gay" as a search term. The results were retrieved using Google's SafeSearch feature, which attempts to block web pages containing explicit sexual content from appearing in search results.* Each of these URL's were tested from 5 computers located in Saudi Arabia. The testing revealed that 170 of the 902 accessible web sites returned from the search result are blocked in Saudi Arabia. These blocked web sites include:

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
Description: News and resources by region/country.

365 Gay The daily gay newspaper online
Description: National online GLBT newspaper with feature columns, gay radio, city guides across Canada, and news.

OutProud - Resources for Queer and Questioning Youth
Description: National coalition for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered youth.

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center.
Description: Information on daily events, 12-step program, use of archives and library, crisis counseling, publication...

Description: Networking group based in the United States with chapters worldwide. Related news, chat room, and articles.

Screen Capture of

Enumeration Results:

High Impact 1 2 3 4 5                                 

High Impact Enumeration Results
highimpact (17/53) report blocked

Search Engine Enumeration Results
gay (170/902) report blocked

Green: Indicates the URL was successfully accessed by both a local connnection as well as through remote computer.
Red: Indicates the URL was successfully accessed by a local connnection but was inaccessible through a remote computer resulting in a "block page" indicating that the web site is blocked.
Yellow:Indicates the URL was successfully accessed by a local connnection but was inaccessible through a remote computer as a result of a network connection error.

* Google's SafeSearch is not 100% effective in screening out all pornographic content.
** Previously released report by ONI members on Internet filtering in Saudi Arabia:

Documentation of Internet Filtering in Saudi Arabia

Methodology & Limitations

In order to enumerate Internet filtering worldwide, researchers use remote computers located in countries that employ content filtering and blocking practices.

However, there are limitations in content filtering and blocking research. The network connection errors indicative of Internet filtering and blocking are identical to normal errors that occur during the course of Internet traffic routing. In other cases, the content filtering software may return a "block page" when filtered content is accessed which has the same HTTP response code received when a web page is successly accessed. Futhermore, the remote computers may return results that are not indicative of overall Internet filtering within a given country.

To ensure accuracy, the HTTP headers of "block pages" are compared with the HTTP headers of accessible content along with the local connection's HTTP headers in order to determine the location at which the content is being filtered. Additionally, all websites are checked locally (from a non-filtered location) and from multiple remote computers (on different Internet Service Providers and national backbone networks where applicable) at multiple time periods.

About OpenNet Initiative

The OpenNet Initiative is a partnership of the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, and the Advanced Network Research Group at the Cambridge Security Programme, University of Cambridge.