Skype, WhatsApp, Viber not blocked in Saudi Arabia despite threat

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Saudi Arabia’s telecommunications regulator didn’t block messaging applications despite an ultimatum it gave to telecom companies if they failed to monitor these applications.

Al Arabiya correspondent said messaging applications, such as Skype, WhatsApp and Viber were not blocked in Saudi Arabia, and an agreement is expected to take place between Saudi Telecommunications and Information Technology Commission and telecom companies .

On Monday, the commission urged telecom companies to examine possible ways for security oversight with companies who own those ‘apps,’ or else they will be blocked.

Telecom companies say it is impossible to monitor the applications, the commission said it will consider procedures to block them altogether in the kingdom.

The Saudi telecommunication watchdog had addressed a similar case with BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) in 2010 when it ordered local telecommunication companies to suspend BlackBerry messenger services.

The Kingdom demanded access to the Blackberry’s encrypted network. The Saudi regulatory commission reportedly refused to comment about its imminent decision.

Sulaiman Mirdad, the commission’s deputy governor, told the Okaz daily newspaper that the commission has named Sultan al-Malik as its spokesman to answer the media's questions.

But the paper reported that several attempts were made to reach al-Malik by phone but he did not respond.

Saudi online users took to twitter to mock the commission’s anticipated decision, with some asking for the internet service to be cut off altogether. Others wrote that the next target for government control will be the oxygen that people breathe.

The number of internet users has reached 16 million in Saudi Arabia, Al Arabiya correspondent said. Around 55 percent of cellphone users in Saudi Arabia have smartphones, he added.

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