Getting banned in the Middle East and China is fast becoming a sign of importance of a website. YouTube’s had it, the BBC has had it, and now up and coming social media site Twitter has had it happen to them. In the words of Ali G. “Respect”!
Twitter, the fast growing social networking and micro blogging site, has been banned in Dubai. The official reason given is that its content is not consistent with the religious, moral and political values of the region. The event however, seems to have been triggered by equally interesting event…
James Karl Buckley, a student of journalism at the University of California in Berkeley, was arrested last week by the Egyptian law enforcers for photographing some noisy demonstrators. Buckley who had access to Twitter through his mobile phone, typed in the word “ARRESTED” and sent it out through the ubiquitous mobile messaging service of Twitter
Buckley’s message reached all his contacts in the U.S.A. and many anti-government bloggers in Egypt, on whom his journalism project is based. The next day he not only had an Egyptian lawyer hired by UC Berkeley, but also the support of the U.S. Embassy, and he walked out a free man in no time.
Web 2.0 sites like YouTube and Twitter are gaining tremedous popularity in the East as a vehicle for repressed individuals to broadcast their plight and gain international sympathy. Protesters in Tibet used YouTube to show the world Chinese governmental heavy-handedness and an individual in Egypt used Twitter to draw international attention to himself.
These social media websites are turning into a real threat to the oppressors. It is just easier for certain governments to ban such sites in order to prevent the spread of any anti-government propaganda, or a threat to their sovereignty.
Internet users in Dubai saw a notice saying “Site Blocked” when they tried accessing http://twitter.com. Interestingly enough, the government was also polite enough to say “If you think this site should not be blocked, please visit the Feedback Form available on our site.” One does wonder how safe anyone who questions such a government’s motive, by filling in this feedback form, would actually be?