Saudi lifting ban on Skype, WhatsApp calls, but will censor them

Saudi Arabia has finally ended its long and arduous battle with internet phone calls on popular messaging apps like Whatsapp and Messenger by lifting the ban in a series of reforms by the Kingdom’s new crown prince which are created to make the country more attractive for business. The move is part of its ongoing economic reforms, but a government spokesperson said it would censor and monitor calls.

The government in order to transform its economy that aids in enlargement of the business and broaden the economy to the low price of oil plans to provide access to other video and audio call services including Facebook messenger and Viber that fulfills the necessities of the regulation of the authorities.

However, on Thursday morning, Viber appeared to remain blocked inside the kingdom, and WhatsApp worked only when connected to a wireless network.

Adel Abu Hameed, spokesman for telecoms regulator CITC revealed on Arabiya that new regulations were aimed mainly at protecting users personal information and blocking content that violated the the Laws of KSA. In the years since, however, internet calling has become prevalent in the global market and the Saudi government said it was lifting the ban as a way of stimulating the economy.

He also added that the apps, both local and global can not be used in any way without being censored by CITC or monitoring.

It was not clear how authorities would be able to monitor the apps like WhatsApp, which boasts that its messages are all supported by encryption from end-to-end, meaning the company is unable to read messages from its customers even if law enforcement authorities approached them.

Revoking the ban will likely impact the revenues of the country’s mobile operators Mobily, STC and Zain, as they benefit hugely from the country’s millions of expatriates making worldwide calls and texts.

Saudi Arabia, which introduced blocks to internet communications from 2013, has along with its Gulf Arab neighbours been wary that such services could be used by activists and militants.

Mass protests known as Arab Spring in 2011 were organized often times via the Internet, although Gulf Arab states, with the exception of Bahrain the island kingdom, mostly were able to escape the uprisings.

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