UAE Lifts Ban on Flickr

Just last week, the UAE announced that it would no longer block popular social networking and photo-sharing site Flickr after years of banning its access. According to the Associated Press, Flickr Groups, a site feature that encourages people to pool their photos, comment on others’ works, and build virtual communities, remains blocked by the Telecommunications Regulation Authority. However, Yahoo! Middle East Managing Director Ahmed Nassef views this as a step in the right direction, commenting:

“Overall, this is a very positive development for UAE users, as well as advertisers.”

Recent Herdict reports on the UAE show that a few users could indeed access Flickr, but this new development has yet to materialize in data.

This may be the direct result from last year’s attempt by the TRA to obtain feedback from UAE Internet users. Upon entering certain blocked sites back in 2009, a message appeared on the screen soliciting opinions on appropriate levels of filtering. Many were surprised that the UAE—often compared to Saudi Arabia and China in terms of its strict web browsing rules—even granted this opportunity for people to vocalize their suggestions on Internet regulations.

Ironically, this increased online leniency comes at the heels of government threats to cut off service to Blackberry phones in the country. Officials say that they plan to cut off all mobile connections to Blackberry handsets on Monday, October 11 if RIM—the Canadian company responsible for manufacturing Blackberries—does not agree to install encrypted servers on their devices. These servers would allow the government to view emails and data on any Blackberry handhelds.

For more information, visit the ONI website for a profile of UAE’s Internet regulations or Herdict’s Country Report.

About the Author: Qichen Zhang

Qichen is an undergraduate studying Social Studies at Harvard College. Besides Herdict, she blogs for the Berkman Center's OpenNet Initiative and Blogging Common. She can be reached at qzhang@fas.harvard.edu.

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