Dubai Police confirmed on Tuesday that it has asked the UAE telecoms regulator to censor 500 search terms it deems offensive in a bid to block access to certain internet sites.
The Chief of Police spoke out about the force’s plans to block access to certain internet sites after it was reported that he had met with a Google official in Dubai last month to discuss barring the 500 terms.
Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim said the move was intended to protect the UAE’s young people from “pornographic” and “anti-religious” content on Google owned video sharing site YouTube
“These (500) terms open the door into the smut in the cyberspace bringing in devastating effect on the young generation as the studies had shown,” Tamim said in a statement published by state news agency WAM.
He also clarified that it was his deputy, Major General Khamis Matar Al Mazeina, who had met with a Google official to discuss the list of search terms that had been compiled by the UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA).
The discussions have prompted a strong attack from media freedom group The Doha Centre for Media Freedom , which published a statement on Sunday calling on Google to re-think its cooperation with the censorship measures, which it calls “alarming”.
Google came under international fire in 2006 for succumbing to China’s censorship demands, which it was forced to agree to in order to obtain a licence to set up its search engine there.
In response to the Doha Centre’s criticism, which was released to the media, Tamim said: “The [Doha Centre for Media Freedom] interprets pornography as a legitimate right, which people are entitled to imbibe across the internet.”
“But the Dubai Police do not agree with them in holding this view and so they have to recognise people who travel in the opposite direction,” he added in the WAM statement.
Meanwhile, Google, the world’s largest search engine, has denied it is in the process of drawing up a censorship plan for the UAE.
A Google spokesperson confirmed that the company had met with the Dubai Police along with several other organisations from the region’s government, business and public sectors.
“Contrary to false reports no censorship plan was drawn up,” she said.
“At Google we believe in engaging with users, businesses, non-profits, and governments in order to address whatever questions or concerns they may have about our products.”
“It’s the best way for us to understand the local countries in which we operate, and for others to understand Google, YouTube, and the policies around our products,” she said.
However, the Google declined to comment on whether it would censor search results in the future if asked by one of the region’s governments.
The TRA was unavailable for comment.
Last month, media rights group Reporters Without Borders named Saudi Arabia as one of the world’s top 12 internet censors, along with China, Iran and Syria.
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