Saudi Arabia may try to end anonymity for Twitter users: paper

Sat Mar 30, 2013 5:32am EDT
 

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia may try to end anonymity for Twitter users in the country by limiting access to the site to people who register their identification documents, the Arab News daily reported on Saturday.

Last week, local media reported the government had asked telecom companies to look at ways they could monitor, or block, free internet phone services such as Skype.

Twitter is highly popular with Saudis and has stirred broad debate on subjects ranging from religion to politics in a country where such public discussion had been considered at best unseemly and sometimes illegal.

Early this month, the security spokesman for Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry described social networking, particularly Twitter, as a tool used by militants to stir social unrest.

The country's Grand Mufti, Saudi Arabia's top cleric, last week described users of the microblogging site as "clowns" wasting time with frivolous and even harmful discussions, local newspapers reported.

"A source at (the regulator) described the move as a natural result of the successful implementation of (its) decision to add a user's identification numbers while topping up mobile phone credit," Arab News reported.

That would not necessarily make a user's identity visible to other users of the site, but it would mean the Saudi government could monitor the tweets of individual Saudis.

The English-language daily and sister paper to the Saudi-owned pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, did not explain how the authorities might be able to restrict ability to post on Twitter. Both newspapers belong to a publishing group owned by the ruling family and run by a son of Crown Prince Salman.

Internet service providers are legally obliged to block websites showing content deemed pornographic.   Continued...

 
An illustration picture shows the log-on icon for the Website Twitter on an Ipad in Bordeaux, Southwestern France, January 30, 2013. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau