Internet Filtering in Asia and the Middle-East

Internet filtering in the Middle-East and Asia

Internet Access in the Middle-East and Asia is different from the "western world". It's filtered, blocking access to various parts of the Internet based on political, religious, economic or cultural values. A scan by the OpenNet Initiative in 40 countries in 2006 found evidence of technical filtering in 26 countries.


Internet Filtering :: Internet Access Blocked by Etisalat
The Internet filter in the UAE showing "this site is blocked" - generated by sophisticated filtering technology by Etisalat.

For travelers who frequently use the Internet, Internet Filtering has implications, depending on the country you're in. To name a few:

  1. Websites visited today, are blocked tomorrow
  2. Social networking & picture/video sites are blocked
  3. Your travel website is blocked, because the shared server it's on has forbidden content
  4. Websites updates show only after a while due to local caching / evaluation
  5. Main stream websites deliver different content locally. (self censoring)
  6. Slow Internet due to extensive filtering
  7. Tampering with the DNS server, making Internet access erratic.
  8. Webpages partially show due to linked in forbidden content
  9. Certain Google search phrases are blocked
  10. VOIP services (Skype) can be blocked

So what countries practice Internet Filtering? A few examples, (there can be more);

Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, China, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen.

The ones marked bold filter heavily (wide and deep) and block large parts of the Internet.

Read about Internet Filtering in Turkey in 2010 from the inside.

Morocco has light internet filtering, though blocks Google Earth.

Dealing with internet filtering while traveling

If Internet Access is important for your travels, there are few things you can do;

  1. Research before you go, ask around on forums and educate yourself
  2. Expect erratic Internet access, Internet Filtering is a 24 hr state run activity.
  3. Social Networking sites are popular block targets - don't depend on them
  4. Set auto-forwards on mail to a large webmail operator (Gmail, Yahoo)
  5. Use a VPN tunnel - however don't depend on it, they are easily blocked
  6. Don't always believe what you see, websites can show old / tampered content
  7. Arrange a contact outside to have indirect access to crucial website information
  8. Once there, ask around and educate yourself

Sometimes Internet Filtering is implemented at the Internet Access Providers. Switching from provider can result in better or worse access.

In rare cases Internet Access can be reversely filtered or blocked. For instance the Google Earth website can not be accessed in Iran due to UN restrictions.

Read the report from the OpenNet Initiative.