Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Censure the censor

There’s been quite a bit of news here in the UAE about the new cyber-crimes law. It isn’t just to make hacking, phishing, scamming, and virus uploading illegal. Defamation is a big issue too. The local media were all abuzz a while ago when it turned out that, for example, it’s a criminal offence to make an assault in a public place an item of common knowledge by posting it on YouTube. It’s also potentially illegal to tag photographs on Facebook without the owner of the face giving written consent. In fact, even taking pictures of people turns out to be against the law, unless you have written permission.

Here’s me imagining that someone gurning in front of a camera gives that permission, but apparently not. Taking allegedly amusing photos of the scenes of drunken debauchery at any one of Dubai’s alcohol-fuelled Friday brunches could well lead to trouble, and we can see why. Imagine that I get my inebriated mugshot uploaded and tagged. Then, without my knowledge, it gets circulated by friends of friends of friends, and it lands in the inbox of my hypothetical ultra-conservative boss. A very real possibility of “Sayonara, Habibi!”

In practice, of course, the vast majority of pictures and tags are just fine; everyone’s happy to appear on their Facebook friends’ timelines, and innocuous pictures of a few friends having a couple of jars will not even be noticed, let alone commented upon.

A somewhat alarming part of the cyber-crimes law is that I am apparently responsible for what other people post in my blog or Facebook comments. I post a story, a few of my friends make comments, the thread goes off at a tangent, and then someone in Australia posts a supposedly witty remark concerning the intelligence and parentage of some prominent individual or corporate entity here in the UAE. That defamatory post would now be my fault.  

Hence the disclamatory footer on this blog. How can I possibly be held responsible if a hyperlink to a third-party’s website leads to something that someone, somewhere might find offensive?

The two local internet service providers in the UAE both provide connections to the 'net solely through proxy servers. It is obviously illegal to attempt to bypass the proxy, which automatically blocks gambling, anti-Islam, porn, and a whole lot more besides. Anonymising software that you can download from REDACTED is obviously not on an accessible website.

It’s coming to the United Kingdom too. “The [British] government is promoting filters to prevent children and young people from seeing content that is supposed to be for over 18s. This includes pornography and sites that talk about alcohol, smoking, anorexia and hate speech.”

I checked, and according to the website, TalkTalk has blocked my blog. There appears to be no way of contacting whatever faceless bureaucrat made the decision (because it’s doubtless a machine). Attempts to contact TalkTalk end when it becomes obvious that I don’t have an account with them. And never shall I.

So read this blog while you still can. The Grumpy Goat: Too controversial for TalkTalk.

To end on a happy note, and I realise that it goes with the current season in the way that ice-cream goes with ketchup, but here’s an old joke that circulated in Saudi Arabia a few years ago, on the run-up to the feasting season at the end of December. We’re already used to euphemisms such as “Festive” and also “Special Beverages” and even “Curly-Tailed Dog.” The UAE is, I'm pleased to report, much more relaxed than this.

Christmas Dinner Menu

Champagne Reception

Melon and Ham

Main Course
Roasted Christmas Turkey
Pork Chipolata Sausages
Roast potatoes
Red Wine Gravy

Choice of red or white Wine

Christmas Pudding with Brandy Butter

To Finish
Port and Cheese Board
Tea or Coffee


Grumpy Goat said...

I checked again on 4th July, and TalkTalk now appears to have unblocked my blog.

Grumpy Goat said...

Correction: today I found that TalkTalk isn't blocking my blog, but it is blocked by TalkTalk-Kidsafe.

The Grumpy Goat: Not Suitable For Children.


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