It's hard to be Web 2.0 when so many sites are blocked

One of the issues raised with the company I’m working with here in Dubai is the need to improve their “digital literacy”.

Some elements of digital literacy may be hard to achieve because of the number of things that seem to be blocked by national firewalls. On my last visit here in November I learned that you couldn’t use Skype. That has a lamentable commercial logic to it: the national telecoms monopoly, Etisalat, doesn’t want its monopoly rents threatened. But there are plenty of blockages that have nothing to do with commercial advantage.

I can’t reach any Typepad blog. Fortunately (I couldn’t live without my fixes of Brad DeLong and many others) nothing is blocking the many Typepad full-text feeds that are flowing into my Google Reader (something I’ll have to recommend to my clients). Flickr is blocked: “We apologize the site you are attempting to visit has been blocked due to its content being inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates.”

Using the Google cache I’m able to find blocked items. Here’s a poem posted to the Flickr page about the block in the United Arab Emirates:

Unblock flickr
Let the children of our tribes grow
Whether they live
By moon magic sands
Or the glow of it on snow

Unblock flickr
Let us see the flow of
Arabic script
Let it shine how it wills
Do not slab it over
In a jailing tomb
Or a crypt

Unblock flickr
For what ye shall do to family
Of sister and man
Ye shall do to us with this ban

Unblock flickr
For the soul sets free from
The lord of eyes
And it needs to reach back out
To honour the skies

Unblock for the photo’s and arts
Unblock to risk how the soul
Flows through all our hearts
Unblock or we fail
Unlock the jail
Let us see the shine in our
Other tribes eyes……..

Do unto others as thou wilt be done by ..

2 thoughts on “It's hard to be Web 2.0 when so many sites are blocked

  1. David Derrick

    I don’t think the Chinese bother to place such a polite statement at the entrances to the sites they block.

    To be fair, the UAE does (I think) allow you to send an email saying why you think the site should be UNblocked — which is probably a rather dangerous thing to do too often.

  2. Lance Knobel

    Yes, the Great Firewall of China is in a different league entirely. What I found notable in Dubai, however, is that there is every appearance of having a high tolerance of media diversity. Perhaps not locally, where the papers certainly are as dull as dishwater. But I don’t sense any restrictions on other news media that come in.


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