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Like several other Arab countries, Saudi Arabia has long implemented a ban on pornography and films or websites that show sex or nudity.It blocks content that is insulting to Islam, threatening to ban You Tube last year for carrying Innocence of Muslims, the low-budget film that sparked violent protests across the Muslim world for its insulting portrayal of the Prophet Muhammed.While content that undermines the authority of the Saudi ruling family has always been restricted, the government has become increasingly sensitive to online dissidence, fearing it could incite uprisings the likes of those in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, and neighboring Bahrain.It has yet to be seen whether Saudi Arabia will carry out the proposed bans or—as some local reports suggested—whether the companies themselves would strike a deal with the government. An 11th hour decision averted the ban, but the government declined to provide any details behind the negotiations.
While Saudi Arabia is infamous for taking authoritarian measures to crack down on perceived security threats, it has increasingly shifted its attention toward the telecommunications sector in recent months.
The CITC announced in September that all pre-paid SIM card users must enter a personal identification number when recharging their accounts and the number must match the one registered with their mobile operator when the SIM is purchased.
The country’s second-largest telecom company, known as Mobily, was temporarily banned from selling its pay-as-you-go SIM cards after it failed to comply with the new regulations.“A proposal for a ban would be driven by political and security concerns as opposed to economic concerns,” said Aiyah Saihati, a Saudi businesswoman and writer.
“The Saudi government is refraining from taking an extremely authoritarian style dealing with its critical youth population.
Saudi may try, without censorship, to find ways to monitor communications.” As revolution gripped much of the Arab world in 2011, Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, spearheaded a counterrevolution—working to appease its critics with monetary and political concessions, while suppressing protests via brutal crackdowns.