CITC blocking games

There is no denying that Saudis are tech savvy. About 50% of the population are under the age of 25. Computers and smart phones are relatively affordable. Add to that the confining and conformist society that makes up Saudi and you get a country where on average, every person has 1.8 mobile phones. One of the highest averages in the world. Everyone and their grandmother is online whether they use their real names or not.

Then you have the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) trying to regulate, monitor and/or monopolize Saudis online. First it was with the Blackberry Messenger service a couple of years ago. CITC threatened Blackberry that it would block their services in the country and so Blackberry complied and granted CITC access to its instant messaging service.

Now Viber, Whatsapp and Skype are the focus of the CITC. Viber was blocked a few days ago and there are sporadic reports from some that their Viber account wasn’t blocked. I tried it today and couldn’t even download the application ont my iphone. Whatsapp has reportedly rejected CITC requirements and will be blocked in the upcoming weeks. No news yet if Skype had been contacted directly or how it responded.


Why is the CITC doing this? It’s probably a combination of factors. First to monitor (more bluntly spy) on Saudi citizens. This is supported by reports that Blackberry had to place some of its communication servers in Saudi in order to avoid suspension of its services. But the monitoring argument contradicts that Viber CEO Talmon Marco states that his company was not contacted by CITC to request access before blocking it. So another additional, not necessarily alternative, reason is commercial interests. These applications are free alternatives to services provided by telecom companies in Saudi. Since government accountability is more of a foreign concept than an applicable one, it’ll be hard to get CITC to be more forthcoming on its reasons. I was literally laughed at when I suggested that citizens have a right to directly question CITC on its reasons.

In the long term it doesn’t really matter how many applications are blocked or what reason they’re blocked for. Early on, Saudi persistence and desperation has broken down all blocks. When some websites were blocked, they found a loophole through the cache and translated versions on Google search. When those were blocked, they found a way through the secure http. Right now there are Saudi produced Youtube videos on how to circumvent the Viber block and others on how to download alternatives to Whatsapp. The Japanese Line application is a free alternative to Whatsapp and so far has not been threatened with suspension. As long as there are internet services available in Saudi, these blocks will only have an effect on the short term and to many Saudis are just an inconvenience. 


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21 responses to “CITC blocking games

  1. One consequence to blocking these services is the potential for so many expats to leave Saudi because they can no longer call back home for free. I knew so many who spent so much of their remuneration on telecom expense. Having to pay again for long-distance service will cause many to leave. In essence, it might also be argued as a contributing factor to help clear some of the expat competition to help Saudization progress.

    • Abdullah qahtani

      Maxwell hyder, I think u r in a well like a frog,come out of the it and see how many suadis who are holding responsible positions are too corrupt.
      look at the saudi electricity co,almost every manager and VP and so on is a prtner in one company or the other.
      Just a week ago,one saleh al suhaibani finalised a ESS contract at the last minute just 5 days before the previous contract got over,so that there will be no time to think for the companies.he has a beard and pray five times and fast in ramadaan but all his activities are exactly of a jew.
      out of 17 compoanies he has taken only 6,that too,of no use.
      Dar AL Riyadh,he did not touch because the owner is a prince,who will screw saleh from bottom to his mouth.
      his main aim is to keep palace consult and satech where he has an interest.
      because oif this sec is suffering and this man is not even worried of any thing of his department,what a shame.
      such kind of corruption in sec has damaged the whole poweer system,but the king is still trsting the saudis,it is apity.

  2. They can run but they cannot hide. The more they show their true colors, the easier for the people to know them for who they are: absolutists who have lived in a different world that considers reality illusions or a Western conspiratorial plot designed to corrupt their people (make them more aware of their rights and obligations), especially women.

    Looking from the out in with residual memories of past nightmares, one can see a system that is bent on undermining its credibility and at the end its survival. I agree with the esteemed editor of this blog that the people are not only technologically savvy, but politically sophisticated and more aware of their rights today than at any time in the lands history.

    This awareness is not only irreversible, but will continue to grow beyond what anyone or censorship can accommodate.

  3. Sleepy

    Thank you for your post and your website

  4. roxana aguilera

    la poblacion cubana ,tambien padece las restriciones tecnologicas impuestas por el gobierno de un solo partido. en esta misma linea
    mi gobierno supero a la monarquia saudi,,somos en nuestro hemisferio
    el ultimo pais en hacer uso de telefonos movil y net,forzosamante acaban
    de abrir una brecha para acceder a la net desde espacios PUBLICOS
    y ESTATALES ,mostrando previamente identificacion y firmar un compromiso de no usar oara fines q danen el gobierno!!!!!!!!!,jo,jo es
    increible ,si con el precio de 05$$$ la hora nadie accede y el estado se limpia de pecado. mas los cuabnos tambien pulan la cerca siempre.recomiendo a los saudies contactar la bloguer de “generacion Y”
    q es una esperta en tener NET sin NET!!!,ella dio conferencias de esto pero yo soy analfabeta de esta tecnologia. ojala y se pueda intercambiar experiencias para burlar restricciones absurdas,
    vival libertad de expresion,informacion y …………………..

    • Cuanto cuesta esta evitacion del bloqueo, madamoiselle cubana? Felicitaciones y suerte a tu voz y libertad temporanea!

      • roxana aguilera

        maxwell .la traduccion de mi comentario puede no ser buena,tal vez no se
        entienda mi mensaje..
        aclaro q soy de izquierda ,no de extremo. el problema de cuba es dificil entender por la izquierda mundial.pues piensan q no tenemos motivos para contestacion.
        El bloqueo ,esta y no esta!!!!sobre la net ,le digo q venezuela con un costo de 70.m $ ofrecio a cuba,hace mas de 5 anos!!!!,el cable de fibra
        para “evitar” el “bloqueo de EEUU” y solo a pocos dias el gob ,”libero la
        net “para los cubanos,(Mayo/2013) el precio es de CINCO (5) dolares /h!!
        en cuba un medico gana 550 pesos cubanos y 24 = 1 $ !!!!!!!.con este
        precio de la net ,continua la misma prohibido para el cubano. y es solo
        en centros estatales,NO EN CASA!!!, ahhh tienes q mostrar identificacion
        oficila y mismo asi,hay lugares POLITICOS censurados!!!!
        Para mi el problema esta en la ALIMENTACION !!!!!

  5. Dan

    Are most Saudis familiar with TOR relays? As I understand it, if it appears your IP address is from another country, it’s impossible to censor internet you have access to.

    • i am familiar with tor. my problem is that tor does not run on nokia. however tor i think runs on windows mobile & android. you can turn on tor right from your phone. then you configure your chat app to connect through a proxy. this will sidestep any attempts at blocking your applications. btw my website is down. i am accepting contributions to help it get back up again! may allah bless rizana nafeek and grant her jannat al-firdaus. may the people who murdered her be sent to lowest depths in hell.

  6. Eventually, Progress always benefits the better part of Society, in some way or another … ” Too many cameras and not enough food
    ‘Cos this is what we’ve seen ” Sting from ” Driven To Tears “.

  7. May I just say what a comfort to find somebody that really
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  8. El gobierno cubano hakea los blog de la oposicion,los inunda de publicidad ,esto esta pasando con el de la opositora cubana MIriam
    Celaya en su blog Sin evasion. ,
    yo quiero q los saudies y los cubanos sean libres opinantes y pensantes
    mismo q tengamos cultural diferentes .,para nosotros muchas religiones
    son desconocidas en cuba,mas hay tolerancia .
    Todo el q venga por paz es hermano. .

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  10. roxanaaguilera

    esta avatar de Brasil es para expresar mia solidaridade con un hombre negro trabalhador ,humilde nombrado AMARILDO q esta desaparecido en
    Brasil e hay manifestaciones exigiendo al estado e gobierno q aparezca ..
    “Amarildo no fue el unico desaparecido ,pero tendra q ser el ultimo!!”
    la pregunta q esta en el pueblo de brasil” CADE’ AMARILDO ???(es lo q esta escrito en una pancarta pendurada en esta figura.

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  13. expert

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  14. lisa

    I am definitely trying this with milk choco chips. I am a sweet fiend! Thank you for the recipe.ash jo

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