The OpenNet Initiative Report on Oman

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(Photo credits: squacco)

The OpenNet Initiative, a partnership between the University of Toronto, Harvard University, the University of Cambridge, and Oxford University, has published last month an annual report on filtering and surveillance of the Internet in Oman.

The report summarizes the factors that contribute in censoring the internet including the legal framework and Omantel’s terms and conditions. The report concludes that censorship in Oman is primarily made on social basis as it focuses on pornographic, homosexual, and anti-hacking websites, but does not necessarily involve political censorship. The report claims that Omantel uses American-made censorship products such as SmartFilter.

The report also claims that the Omani government monitors “private communications, including mobile phones, e-mail, and Internet chat room exchanges, and interrogates chat room users who are critical of government officials or policies by tracking them through their ISP addresses”. The report cites as its authority on this fact the US State Department Human Rights Report that was published in March 2008.

The report is very interesting, but it has a number of inaccuracies (the majority of the websites mentioned are not actually blocked), cites irrelevant cases to support some points (the Omania case was a defamation case and had nothing to do with surveillance), and makes no mention Article 61(4) of the Telecom Law and the recent case of Ali Al Zuwaidi.

However, the report still paints a very general idea in the situation in Oman and how people are pushed to self-censor themselves even though the constitution guarantees the right of freedom of speech. You can read it via this link.

13 thoughts on “The OpenNet Initiative Report on Oman”

  1. From what I read previously from their Iran and UAE reports, this initiative is nothing but a horde of hot shit. It's completely inaccurate, delusional and just too intentionally injected with garbage to portray a healthy image of the realities of internet censorship here.

    I'm not just taking the piss here. There's no bigger advocate, althought I disapprove of this terminology, net nuetrality here than me, but this type of shit gets no one no where.

  2. I mentioned in the post that the report is inaccurate, but that is not to say that it is totally made up. All their facts are cited from proper websites such as the BBC and national regional newspapers. I think it misses a lot of facts because no Omani or Arabic speaking person is involved in the process.

  3. That's actually untrue; the person who writes the reports is a native Arabic speaker who lives in the UAE.

    Regardless of that fact, there is always the chance that we've gotten information incorrect, and we'd love to have your specific feedback as to what is specifically inaccurate.

  4. Do you have any constructive comments as to perceived inaccuracies in the Iran and UAE reports? Not only do we empirically test over 1,500 sites in each country that we review, we also research using news and other sources. Of course, that leaves us wide open for error, and I realize that there is potential for errors in our testing (particularly when it comes to countries which frequently block and unblock sites, since our tests can only be run at a given time, not in an ongoing manner).

  5. I thought that the only justification for this inaccuracy was the lack of the participation of an Arabic speaker! 😛

    Would love to contribute in helping making this more accurate. How do we go about in doing this?

  6. (I'm an Arabic speaker too, btw – no justification whatsoever in that area).

    Please email me any specific information you find inaccurate, as well as citations to back it up. We are of course happy to provide as accurate information as possible.

    Incidentally, in regard to the blocked sites, a look back at our testing (performed last fall/this spring) concludes that those sites were, at the time, filtered. What ISP are you on?

  7. Unless we made a huge mistake, there are two possible explanations that I can think of:

    1. Your Internet connection is not blocked (I have heard reports from friends in Qatar of being somehow outside the filter, not sure if this happens in Oman)

    2. The sites were unblocked after we tested them.

    We are re-testing in the region, so hopefully this round will show us that those sites are unblocked. Still, do e-mail me, I don't mind being proven wrong!

  8. FWIW, most of the URLs which are cited in the profile , based on checking them today, remain blocked, although oddly several of the druggy ones now aren't.

    Over time, I've found it most annoying that some areas of Wikipedia are blocked, although inconsistently. Not surprisingly, several English-language sites that attack HM are blocked, and the whole VOIP thing really annoys a lot of people. On the whole the filters in Oman seem much less annoying to the average user than those in the UAE, which seem to happen more at the domain-name level (i.e. all of Flickr, etc.).

  9. FWIW, most of the URLs which are cited in the profile , based on checking them today, remain blocked, although oddly several of the druggy ones now aren't.

    Over time, I've found it most annoying that some areas of Wikipedia are blocked, although inconsistently. Not surprisingly, several English-language sites that attack HM are blocked, and the whole VOIP thing really annoys a lot of people. On the whole the filters in Oman seem much less annoying to the average user than those in the UAE, which seem to happen more at the domain-name level (i.e. all of Flickr, etc.).

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