UAE: Du prepares to block offensive websites

DU, the United Arab Emirates’ second Internet Service Provider serving Dubai free zones such as Dubai Media City, Dubai Internet City, Knowledge Village, Marina and other residential complexes, has started blocking access to websites that are considered “morally harmful” and offensive to local “moral, social and cultural values”.

According to Emirates Business 24/7, DU informed its customers of plans to filter the internet on Sunday 13 April, 2008 via SMS text message: “We wish to inform you that from April 14, 2008, we will be blocking sites with content that do not conform to the moral, social and cultural values of the UAE.” DU also issued a public statement as follows:

It is our constant endeavour to maintain the perfect balance between ensuring that all our customers’ requirements are met, and that we comply with all the guidelines of the TRA, including those on internet content filtering.

The World Wide Web offers us great opportunities to get and share information and to communicate. However, it is imperative that when making use of this technology for its enormous benefits, we respect the moral, social and cultural values of the United Arab Emirates.

DU will be blocking all content that is not in line with these values, effective from 14 April 2008. Due to the nature of the content filtering process, some harmless sites may also inadvertently be blocked. We request our customers’ assistance in informing us when a site that they consider harmless has been blocked, by writing to safesurf@du.ae so we can look into the matter.

This move means that the uncensored internet enjoyed until recently in UAE free zones is over and that the ISP DU will bring its internet content filtering in line with the strict guidelines of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) that have already been implemented for years by the government-owned Internet provider Etisalat. “These are not new regulations we are implementing, this is an initiative we have chosen to take to filter some content after receiving complaints from concerned customers,” Osman Sultan, chief executive of Dubai's ISP DU told ArabianBusiness.com.

As a result, Secret Dubai Diary has been reported blocked along with the U.S.-based Arab Times (both websites are already banned by Etisalat), a Wikipedia article on fitna, the film by the Dutch MP Geert Wilders, playboy.com (and its IP: http://216.163.137.3).

Users trying to access blocked websites have been re-directed to a page displaying the error message: “Surf Safely. The website is not available in the UAE”.

Du Blockpage
Source: Proxy Watch

And in the meantime, some United Arab Emirates bloggers are reporting that Etisalat, the major telecommunications company that services much of the country, is blocking part of Facebook, preventing style sheets (CSS), javascripts and applications from loading properly.

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