Saudi govt. agencies struggling to fight porn on social media

Blocking porn on sites like Twitter and Instagram is proving tricky, Saudi Arabia experts say. (File photo: AFP)

Four Saudi Arabia government agencies — the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia), Ministry of Interior, Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) and the Audiovisual Commission — are facing problems censoring porn accounts that pop up on social media websites.

Unlike pornographic websites, which can be blocked directly, social media websites such as Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr are harder to block since officials have to target individual accounts, Makkah daily reported.

According to recent statistics released by the Social Clinic, a social media agency and consultancy headquartered in Jeddah, the number of users on the microblogging website Twitter in the Kingdom has reached 5 million while the Kingdom’s Facebook users numbered around 7.8 million.

An informed source in the Ministry of Culture and Information said the National Center for Youth Research, an affiliate of King Saud University, will discuss the issue of pornographic accounts on social media websites with the Audiovisual Commission and come up with a plan to deal with the problem.

“We have an independent unit that monitors pornographic activities and deals with them according to the regulations. We deal with many of these practices, but we do not mention their number for two reasons: Firstly, not to reveal the identity of people and secondly not to portray society in negative light,” said the Haia chief Abdullatif Al Asheikh.

“The Haia refers pornography and cybercrime issues to the pertinent authorities to block the offending websites. The Ministry of Interior and CITC are among the most prominent authorities cooperating with the Haia in this regard,” he added.

Electronic traps

According to Aal Asheikh, the commission draws up plans and sets traps including communicating with the owners of accounts that distribute pornographic content in the Kingdom so they can be identified and punished.

He revealed that the majority of offenders are Saudi nationals and they are referred to the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution (BIP). “We do not arrest underaged people in such cases and homosexuals arrested by the Haia typically fall in the 20 to 30 year age bracket and in all other cases, they are over 30,” he said, adding that women’s involvement in such cases is very rare.

Role of the CITC

Sultan Al-Malik, spokesman of the CITC, said whenever a violation is noticed, the company owning the offending application, website or account is immediately informed. CITC also regularly communicates with social networking websites, many of which strictly prohibit pornographic content, and provides them with the accounts detected by it or those provided by users. They are then deleted immediately. “We appeal to users to follow the options provided by the social media to report accounts with explicit content so they can be removed,” he said.

Interior Ministry investigates

“The Ministry of Interior has a section for combating cybercrimes. It receives reports and conducts investigations with the authorities concerned. This is aside from the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution (BIP) and Criminal Investigation Department (CID),” said Maj. Gen. Khidhir Al-Zahrani, former assistant director of public security for security affairs at the Ministry of Interior.

“The administration then takes action according to reports and with the approval of the BIP. It has its own methods and sources to investigate these kind of crimes in cooperation with the CITC and mobile telephone companies,” he added.

Internet Police

According to Saud Katib, professor of information technology at King Abdulaziz University, online pornography exists all over the world. “The Keek website, for example, has many lewd clips and 44 percent of Saudis have accounts there. There is a problem and denying it is a mistake... We are in dire need of Internet police,” he said.

According to Riyadh Najm, chairman of the Audiovisual Commission, dealing with accounts promoting pornographic content was earlier the responsibility of CITC but now this responsibility is in the process of being transferred to the Audiovisual Commission.

“These powers have not actually been transferred due to the non-completion of requirements including staff and equipment. It is difficult to specify the period for this. Part of the responsibility for monitoring these accounts lies with the Ministry of Culture and Information, aside from the Audiovisual Commission, CITC and the security authorities,” he said.


This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on March 19, 2014

SHOW MORE
Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:42 - GMT 06:42
Top