Threat to Social Media in Middle East

Threat to Social Media in Middle East

This is  Part 2 of the post Death of Social Media. Social Media is vibrant and booming in the region but the possibility of its sudden death cannot be overlooked. The political sensitivity and formation of agendas against the existing regimes has provoked many governments in the region to block popular social media sites.

Internet Service Provider (ISP) plays an important role in blocking/filtering these websites. In its role as a licensed ISP and in response to customer requests, ISPs have a clear policy that aims to prevent damage to the values of the community from harmful material on websites.

Interestingly enough, the blocked site message on Etisalat says “If you would like the classification on this site to be reviewed, please fill in and submit the Feed Back Form.” At least an opportunity to appeal, don’t know how many of them may have been heard though.

Below is a country wise summary of blocked social media websites and some figures. The information may vary as countries may decide to block/unblock the websites anytime.


– According to one user of Qatar Living, popular site “Tagged” has been blocked by QTEL in 2009.

– Has got 265,000 Facebook users


– Etisalat banned in 2007 upon orders from the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA).

– The UAE also has a ban on a photo sharing website called Flickr ,

– Youtube is filtered and some of the videos are blocked

– Some popular blogs listed on Blogger like Secret Dubai are also blocked

– Rumors of blocking Facebook or Twitter are occasionally discussed on local forums and make rounds in the market. Many users joined a group called “Say no to blocking Facebook” to show their support last year.

– 1.2 million Facebook users


– Twitter, another popular and rapidly growing social-networking tool, also has been filtered out in Iran.

– Blogging websites like Blogger and WordPress may not be blocked but a particular blog that may offend the officials is blacklisted.

– Iran Internet Service Providers Blocked Facebook in 2009 amid fears of users discussing about the most controversial Iranian Elections.

– Local social networking site is filtered


– They blocked the website of the leading opposition party called Kefaya – Egyptian movement for change, in 2008.

– 2.3 million Facebook users

– Has highest number of Arabic Websites in the region


– Syria has taken the lead in blocking Facebook. The government feared that Israelis are enlisting on the Syrian Networks on the website. This was reported in Lebanese newspaper Al-Safir on 19 November 2007.

– Youtube and Facebook is blocked

Saudi Arabia

– Metacafe Partially Blocked

– Flickr and Orkut blocked

– Access to some of the popular blogs like Saudi Jeans is occasionally restricted

– 1.5 million Face Book users

– 2nd highest country after Egypt to have max. numbers Arabic Websites

– As per a recent survey by IQPC – this is the prime market for Digital Marketing tactics in 2010

Just imagine a hypothetical situation where the ISPs decide to block all the popular Social Networking sites in the region… down goes all the hype about Social Media.

The ad-spend in UAE was approximately 1.46 billion for 2009. Social media would form approximately 15% of this total spend. We know who would take the first financial hit…

-Marketing Agencies would suffer a major blow, as they would have lost a considerable amount of revenue in the form ad-spend.

-Many companies who have diverted funds to Social Media would not take any chances and marketing strategies built around this medium would go down the drain.

– People who interact with their friends/families would be frustrated, as social media has been one of the prime communication medium for them.

Most of the countries in the region block Skype and other VOIP services. As far as freedom of speech and press is considered, United Arab Emirates scores highest marks in the region for being quite liberal but it has a long way to go.

Recent alliance of Facebook with Connect Ads shows the confidence level of the social media sites in this region. I am a great fan of this medium and would like to see this thrive in the region.

Users in Gulf countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia are worried that their authorities could follow suit after some countries have blocked these websites. So much for the political chaos in the countries….that the new medium of communication has to suffer.