If there ever was a reason not to trust Internet filters, even from a world authority like McAfee in this case, then the blocking of my friend Amira Al-Hussaini’s website is a case in point. For some reason, the “smart filter”, which is purportedly used by most telcos in the Gulf, has mistakenly categorised her site as pornographic! How utterly ludicrous.
What’s even more ridiculous is the government’s insistence on a big-brotherly attitude and its taking our place as human beings, parents, teachers and mentors and arbitrarily deciding on what is proper for us to view on the Internet and what is not. So it’s not too much of a surprise to see it using such software which is configured most probably to be have a free hand in controlling what a whole nation should be allowed to witness.
Is this not an embarrassment on their part? Will they ever learn and give us the option of choosing what we wish to view and what to ignore?
I’m afraid with their current method of thinking, there’s not much hope.
Someone, please manually remove http://sillybahrainigirl.blogspot.com from your infernal lists, and while you’re at it, fix that so called feedback form so that situations like this can get resolved in a civilised manner.
With the strange blocking of Silly Bahraini Girl, I can no longer speculate as to what the government’s policy, standards or strategy employed other than a heavy handed approach in stifling speech and them hoping – or actually believing – that such methods actually work in this day and age.
Amira Al-Hussaini’s blog’s content is varied but none of it threatens national security. Unless of course the escapades of Persian kittens are constituted as such!
Amira is one resounding voice in and of the Arab world. Being the Regional Editor for the Middle East and North Africa for Global Voices, a published Huffington Post contributor, she has a resolute finger on the pulse of the Arab world. Apart from her being previously a journalist for some 17 years with the Gulf Daily News, the English language national daily in Bahrain, one would be hard pressed to find a better person to represent Bahrain as well as the larger Arab world. As to her character, all one needs to do is read some of the comments her readers enter on her articles, or read what her peers think of her. Apart from her writing, she is frequently involved in international symposiums and workshops as a leading feminist, journalist and writer.
So one is put to task to think of a logical reason for such a move by the government. Is it a genuine mistake by a functionary who wrongly entered this particular blog into the burgeoning blocked sites list? Or is it another concerted effort at censorship? Or is this a message being sent to Amira: be careful! The problem is, when they block a site, they never tell the webmaster, blogger or author why the block has happened. And why should they? Legally, they do not have to explain their reasoning to anyone. All it takes is a ministerial order. There is no reason to use the legal framework that this country continues to do a big song and dance about. They don’t need to get authorisation from a public prosecutor nor do they need to submit reasons to a judge. The fallacy of a “state of laws and institutions” continues, and because of this oft-repeated statement, the lie is transformed into an abject truth. Freedom of expression be damned, and so are human rights.
However, assuming the best and giving the government the benefit of the doubt, again, I clicked on that link to submit a request for unblocking the site, and entered my reasons for doing so:
Hoping for the best, a clicked the “Unblock” button. But in a demonstration of misplaced trust and undeserved benefit of the doubt, I got this:
Due to the fact that I have been faced with the exact same result when requesting the unblocking of every site I visited which presented me with that asinine blocked screen since its inception a few years ago, I am left with no alternative but to think that the unblock link is just decoration and the requests will never be taken seriously. They are there for cheap eye-candy and to fool the simple.
But even the simple if faced with a hurdle thrown in the path of their destination will find a way to circumvent it, and it’s oh so easy to do now that the vast majority of Internet users in Bahrain already have various tools to circumvent these idiotic blocks.
So who benefits? Who benefits from the government spending millions of much needed currency on filtering technologies? Who benefits from the installation of filtered caches which attempt to create a block but the only thing they succeed in is the delayed access to stale information? Who benefits from the anger these blocks generate, and who benefits from the utter frustration that drives much needed investment – both local and foreign – away due to archaic application of blanket punishments? And who benefits from the uncertainty of censorship haphazardly and unnecessarily applied?
I’m certain it’s neither the government, nor the people of this great country.
It’s possibly a few misguided ancient megalomaniacs for whom the basic of redundant communication that is the Internet is all about.