Politics, iPlayer and Porn
Millions of people are spending their evenings in such simple pleasures like reading news and politics websites, watching internet porn, and enjoying the latest episode of Game of Thrones and others films on iPlayer.
It is hard to believe but these things are not available in the Arab world. Internet censorship, as well as geographical restrictions on online content are terrible in this part of the wold.
But this is not the end on Internet – it is just another day on the internet with VPN solutions.
VPN or Virtual private networks, widespread only in the business sphere before, are very popular today among home Internet users in the Middle East: UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Pakistan, Iran.
Such networks establish a private, encrypted data connection, and allow users to sidestep local censorship rules while disguising their online identities.
For example, an internet user in Qatar or the UAE could use a VPN to access online pornography, avoiding blocks on sites imposed in many Arab countries. VPNs can also allow access to outlawed political sites, certain social media services and other blocked content.
For example, an internet user in Saudi Arabia could use a VPN service to watch TV shows on the BBC’s iPlayer service, which is only available in the UK and a handful of other countries.
Internet censorship is rife in the Middle East. Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia were ranked as the “top 10 most censored countries” in a 2012 report by the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
“Iranian authorities maintain one of the world’s toughest internet censorship regimes, blocking
Yet could using a VPN land you in trouble?
In a market like the UAE, the law prohibits VPNs if they are used to commit or conceal a crime, legal experts say.
“Article 9 in the UAE’s Law No.5/2012 on Combatting Cyber Crimes makes it an offense to use ‘a fraudulent computer network protocol address by using a false address or a third party address’ for the purposes of committing or concealing a crime,” said Dino Wilkinson, partner at the Norton Rose Fulbright legal practice in Abu Dhabi.
Wilkinson said that it is highly unlikely the UAE law would be construed to pursue expatriates using VPNs to access online TV services.
“I am not aware of any particular enforcement actions being taken or contemplated by authorities on this type of benign personal use,” he said.
“I think there would be a bit of uproar among expats if they were stopped from watching Eastenders or the equivalent from their home countries.”