Internet Censorship

The internet in Oman has developed a great deal in recent years, we now have fast speed internet spreading across the country and we have an extensive reach of high speed wireless internet as well. However, the way the content of this internet is regulated and censored did not see much of a development since the Internet was first introduced in the 90s.

Oman is one of the more liberal and tolerant countries in the Gulf and no major websites such as YouTube, Flickr, or Facebook were ever blocked. The recent report on internet censorship issued by the OpenNet Initiative found that there is no evidence of any political Internet censorship in Oman and the majority of Internet censorship is made on social and cultural grounds, for example, hacking and pornographic websites are usually blocked, but websites that criticize government officials are not. The government usually uses legal methods, such as criminal law to deal with issues of defamation and breach of confidence to hold authors accountable for what they write. However, the government will not block their website.

The aim of the censorship process is to protect society values and help prevent minors from being exposed to pornographic material. The process by which such websites are selected and blocked is arranged by an automation software that is operated by Omantel. This software is expected to use a number search and indexing methods to know which websites to block.

Using the method of censorship to help “protect” society values might have worked in the early days of the Internet when the number of websites was small and manageable, but we now live in an age where the Internet is massively expanding every second due to low cost for hosting websites and the expansion in user-generated content. It is now impossible to be able to block all pornographic websites when there are hundreds new of them being created every single minute.

The result is a failing system that cannot logically protect us from all pornographic websites, instead, the automated nature of censorship leads to overblocking clean websites that have no offending content. There are also a number of specialist users who need access to websites that may include “offending content”, such as nudity, for medical or research purposes – but such users cannot access these websites here due to the fact that they are classified as offending websites.

The regulators should admit the fact that such censorship is not a solution, anybody can do a Google image for porn right now to be entertained with loads of offending materials. The internet is expanding as we speak and there is no way to “block” it at the top yet allow people to use it efficiently as the same time.

If it is society values which we aim to protect, then we should educate parents and families on how to use software protection shields on their own computers to protect their kids from accessing any offending websites or restricting their access to a limited number of websites to visit. Specialist users and students should be able to have the option to have unfiltered internet if they would like to access websites that feature nudity for legitimate purposes.

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