Facebook blocked in the United Arab Emirates?

Blockpage: United Arab Emirates

According to Download Squad, access to the popular social networking website Facebook has been blocked in the United Arab Emirates. Some UAE internet users are confirming that the ban was ordered by the government-owned Etisalat. The Administrator of itihad.net (UAE) called up his ISP’s call center and they stated that they are blocking Facebook.

Other Internet users, however, are reporting (here [Ar], here [En] and here [En]) they can access the website and that there is no blocking at their end.

On September 05 2007, The UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) told Time Out Dubai that “At the present time we can say that we have no intention of stopping access to Facebook (…) We have heard that people think this is going to happen but that is not the case. However, we do take any complaints seriously and the situation would be reviewed should that happen.”

Apparently, it seems that Facebook is blocked to some people, but not to all. Nevertheless, UAE Facebook community has setup a petition to keep facebook from being permanently blocked. The petition has already more than 690 signatures. According to Time Out Dubai, “Facebook has over 55,000 users in the UAE with numbers rising daily.

Almost the same thing happened last month in Iran when HAMSA’s “C.R.I.M.E” reported that Facebook was being blocked, relying on Information provided by the “Against internet censorship and filtering in Iran” Facebook group. Hamid Tehrani, Global Voices’ Persian Language Editor, was following the case through his contacts in Iran, received contradictory reports and screenshots from trusted bloggers proving that the ban was most likely on the ISP level and not an official ban.

Some of the inaccurate reporting on the Iran issue illustrated the difficulties of reporting on anti-censorship issues. As Global Voices co-founder Ethan Zuckerman has said, “one of the major challenges of documenting and decrying Internet censorship is that it can be very confusing to figure out precisely why you can’t access a particular website. Is the problem specific to your internet service provider? Is the server down? Or is a block of some sort taking place?” Zuckerman cited the reaction to the ban on Blogspot.com in India in July 2006, during which Indian bloggers were documenting and carefully updating the situation, as a good example of anti-censorship reporting.

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