The Internet is a powerful platform, when used right. It is regulated in the UAE to ensure the safety of users and protect them from harmful websites. Content online is monitored by the authorities concerned to make sure it is in line with the religious, moral and ethical values of the country.
The UAE’s digital infrastructure is so robust that it has the fastest mobile Internet in the world. Its residents spend more than eight-and-a-half hours online every day. There are all kinds of websites on the World Wide Web, but not all of them can be accessed in the UAE.
The UAE’s Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) implements what is known as the Internet Access Management (IAM) Regulatory Policy.
When requested by the TDRA, Etisalat and Du are required to block online content that violates the prevailing cyber laws. According to official statistics, 883 websites were blocked in the first quarter of this year. Of these, nearly half (435) had pornography-related content. About 377 (43 per cent) of websites were blocked over phishing and fraud bids.
According to the TDRA, prohibited content is defined as material that offends or is contrary to the “public interest, public morality, public order, public and national security or Islam”.
There are several categories of prohibited content in the UAE, including:
1. Websites used for bypassing blocked content: These include proxy servers and virtual private networks (VPNs) that allow access to prohibited content.
2. Pornography, nudity and vice
3. Impersonation, fraud and phishing
4. Insult, slander and defamation
5. Invasion of privacy
6. Offences against the UAE and public order
7. Supporting criminal acts and skills: Content that provokes, calls for, promotes or provides information about how to carry out acts of crime or felony.
9. Medical and pharmaceutical practices that violate the law: This includes content used in promoting or trading pharmaceuticals without prescription.
10. Infringement of intellectual property rights
11. Discrimination, racism and contempt of religion
12. Viruses and malicious programmes
13. Promotion of or trading in prohibited commodities and services
14. Illegal communication services
17. Illegal activities