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Internet users stumble across ‘adult’ content Filed on April 11, 2008

DUBAI Several users accessing the du Internet network say that certain web sites containing adult content are accessible despite strict regulations imposed by the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA).

"I have been an etisalat customer for long and recently happened to use the du Internet. I was surprised to find that a site which was inaccessible in the etisalat network was available in du," claimed a user.

Another user who did not wish to be identified questioned whether regulations for both operators were different. I have also stumbled across web sites on the du Net that are inappropriate. As far as I know, such web sites are blocked automatically in the country. However, it means that we have to be extra careful when children are around as they might be able to access content that we do not want them to see, he said. In a statement to Khaleej Times, du said, "As a licensed operator, du complies with all the regulations, directions and policies, including Net censorship imposed by the TRA. We receive direct instructions from them on blocking web sites and filtering Internet content, and implement them within 24 hours as we have already invested in the infrastructure that enables us to censor the content of the World Wide Web. If any consumer has any specific issues relating to a particular web site, they can communicate it directly to the TRA and we will take the necessary measures."

However, a TRA spokesperson explaining the difference in the content being monitored by the authority for both service providers said, "etisalat is using a software (that automatically blocks web sites that do not conform with UAE laws and culture) that has been upgraded over the past 30 years and it has become a solid wall that does not allow any irrelevant content to be displayed."

"This has been done to the extent that sometimes web sites and links are blocked due to words that are similar to unauthorised ones. This is very common when searching medical terms or biological studies which may not necessarily require to be blocked," he added.

He explained that the issue was different for du. "As du is a new service provider in the country, it has a relatively new software, which, though it conforms to the UAE policies, does not apply a generic block like etisalat," he pointed out.

He also revealed that such issues had led to the status of Internet proxy in the country to being reviewed as both the service providers, etisalat and du, were offering different levels of proxies.

"Currently, TRA is in the process of putting together a law to govern Internet proxy in the country which may allow the service provider to point out sites that need not be blocked by TRA. However, any such web site that is not in accordance to the UAE's religious and cultural values or is outright pornographic material, will remain blocked," he said.

This law would also give the freedom to service providers and customers to choose web sites that may be educational, scientific or medical content and are currently being blocked in the country by the TRA due to their generic nature.

The TRA official also said that whoever comes across a web site that does not conform to UAE laws should report it to TRA so that immediate action can be taken.

Asma Ali Zain

Associated with KT for 15 years. Covers health issues, Pakistan community, human interest stories as well as general topics for daily news or features.

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