Saturday, July 30, 2005

A Load of Old Blocks

There's an interesting bunch of comments going on on secretdubai. That well-known commenter 'anonymous' has been having a go at SD and hopes she has 'learned her lesson' after being blocked and unblocked by Etisalat.

What I cannot get my head round is why Etisalat is still trying to act as some kind of 'moral guardian'. Being blocked by them is not the big deal they seem to think it is. Anyone in TECOM/Emaar/Nakheel properties gets unrestricted interweb, as do companies with leased lines. Nobody in the rest of the world knows nor cares what Etisalat is. People who really want to see 'bad stuff' can find ways around the proxy. It will be interesting to see whether 'Etisalat2' feels obliged to implement a proxy.

I think the UAE is grown-up enough to be able live without Etisalat's random and frequently inappropriate censorship. But I also understand that more conservative families feel the proxy is beneficial. So as a first step towards normality, Etisalat could make the proxy optional. As a second step, if you really want a cut-down version of the interweb, you could pay a small monthly fee to Etisalat for the privilege. Or, given that most subscribers would probably opt for a proxy-free life, maybe they should pay for that privilege (joking).

This is all a bit bizarre, though. Here in the UK, you can get unlimited, high-speed ADSL for about 16 pounds a month (Dhs 103), compared to the Dhs 250 / month that Etisalat charges. Regrettably there is no option to have your interweb experience messed up by random censorship.

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Blogger Deepak Morris said...

My uncle once worked in Bahrain, at a store that sold various knick-knacks. The store placed an order for those naughty li'l keychains, the ones that have a li'l plastic man in a li'l plastic barrel. When you raise the barrel, a rubber band arrangement raises his li'l naughty bits. Y'know the one I mean?

The store received the consignment after the usual customs inspection. The customs inspectors had spent a great deal of time and effort with li'l scissors, cutting off you-know-what. Off every li'l plastic man.

*shaking my head sadly*


10:42 pm  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Well, Etisalat hates the proxy even more than users do, because it costs them a hell of a lot of time and money and results in reduced quality of services. Plus most of the top people there - being educated - oppose censorship on both ethical and practical grounds.

The proxy is there because "the people" want it - and a lot of them really do. Particularly conservative types, parents, less technical people.

The problem is that the proxy lures users into a false sense of security. It does not stop their children receiving spam porn emails. It does not stop their children accessing chatlines. It does not stop their children downloading porn through P2P software.

What I do find odd is the extent of the proxy. It goes far beyond its remit to block obvious things like porn and gambling. Fair enough to block things like proxy-bypass sites too.

But to block things like the Wayback machine, and translation services - that is unjust. Anyone savvy enough to use a translation service to evade the proxy is also going to be savvy enough to eventually get around it.

Ditto the "dating" sites they block - why are European matrimonial sites blocked, but not Indian ones?

11:42 pm  
Blogger said...

I think some censorship is necessary. The U.A.E. is not the UK or the U.S and the culture is significantly different. It has been historicaly relatively isoloated and as a result is still very tradional in the 21st Century. Opening up the full torrent of the net to a culture that is comparitivly more 'aboriginal' than the west can be damaging. This is what worries some people.

The west has evolved to the position it is at today and so can handle anything it produces in the media but the East needs time to evolve in its own way. In Europe and America it took time to travel from traditional puritan values to secular plural values...but it was a natural evolution that occured over time. The UAE needs time to grow and adapt.

I have a friend who's uncle does not even like to go to Jumeriah Beach because of the amount of bare flesh thats visible. I also know a few national families who have even moved out of Dubai because they think it is too liberal...

If I became a 'censor' for the UAE media, my goal would be to protect the values and tradions of the UAE culture...but not to the point of supression but to the level that allows for the culure to gradually grow and walk without having to be forced to run.

3:14 pm  
Anonymous e3ashig said...

It is important to see that Etisalat is making an effort to protect the moral, ethical and religious values of the UAE society. I like what twisted said, perhaps we need more time to adapt to the mass-marketed technology-supported bare-flesh version of the world that our peers in the west are accustomed to. I don’t agree with the implication that only those of lower socioeconomic background support the proxy while more educated people favour self censorship. Yes, it is not the perfect solution to the de-traditionalization of our society but it certainly helps slows it down while people (government, academics, active social groups,, etc) find ways to counter balance it.

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