Saudi Arabia amending laws to monitor social media

The Saudi authorities are reviewing the Anti-Cybercrime Law

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The Saudi authorities are reviewing the Anti-Cybercrime Law to amend it so as to initiate legal proceedings against social networking sites such as Twitter for allowing accounts which promote adultery, homosexuality and atheism, according to a report published in a section of the Arabic press on Sunday.

Researcher and consultant of new media uses and Shoura Council member Dr. Fayez al-Shehri told Al-Hayat Arabic daily that there are around 25,000 accounts on Twitter targeting Saudis. There are around 4,500 accounts that promote atheism. Around 15,000-25,000 of such accounts are in Arabic language.


Al-Shehri noted that he monitored a large number of such accounts in different languages that appear and disappear in an organized manner. “This is a cultural war. These accounts are not published for pure financial gains,” al-Shehri said, adding that organized bodies are behind such targeted attacks, which were earlier conducted through traditional media.

The Anti-Cybercrime Law was approved by a Royal decree on March 26, 2007. The law aims at combating cybercrimes by identifying such crimes and determining their punishments to ensure information security, protection of rights pertaining to the legitimate use of computers and information networks, protection of public interest, morals, and common values, protection of national economy.

Cybercrime is on the rise across the Middle East and in Saudi Arabia, and protecting against cyber threats is an ongoing management challenge for organizations in the country.

A recent annual survey by Gulf Business Machines (GBM) has found that approximately 45 percent of IT professionals in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) admit that their organizations had at least one IT security incident that they were aware of in the last 12 months.

There are many weaknesses in traditional cyber security models, but there are also new and improved solutions arising in the market. Cyber security risks are also potentially increasing with social media becoming more available within companies, said GBM in a study.

The 12th annual survey of cybercrime trends found that online attackers determined to break into computers, steal information and interfere with business are more technologically advanced than those trying to stop them.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on June 2, 2014.

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