Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Riyadh's War with the Web. (Other Nations)

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Riyadh's War with the Web. (Other Nations)

Article excerpt

"Dueling for Da'wa: State vs. Society on the Saudi Internet" by Joshua Teitelbaum, in The Middle East Journal (Spring 2002), 1761 N St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036-2882.

Ever since its founding in 1902, the modern Saudi state has struggled to "bring its traditional, tribal, and decentralized society under its cultural, ideological, and religious hegemony." Now it confronts an especially insidious foe: the Internet.

The Saudi government offered public Internet access only in 1999, reports Teitelbaum, a senior research fellow at Tel Aviv University's Moshe Dayan Center. Service is expensive and slow; all Saudi Internet traffic is routed through a single server in Riyadh that is equipped with web filtering technology. Early in 2001, when less than seven percent of the Saudi public had access to the Internet, some 200,000 websites were on the proscribed list and 250 were being added every day.

But censorship is an impossible task. Political dissidents such as the exiled London surgeon Sa'd al-Faqih have set up websites abroad; his Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia website (www. …

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