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After Viber, Saudi Arabia To Block WhatsApp

Saudi Arabia announced intentions to block WhatsApp if the makers of the popular mobile chat app fail to comply with the local regulations.

The warning to block WhatsApp follows the decision last week from the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) to block a popular voice and messaging app Viber.

Reports suggest that Viber is presently working on overcoming the block.

What the officials of Saudi Arabia have to say

Abdullah Al-Darrab, governor of the CITC told English language Arab News “We have been communicating with WhatsApp and other similar communication platforms to get them to cooperate and comply with the Saudi telecom providers, however, nothing has come of this communication yet.”

The governor told the news agency that as per one of the regulations, the app has to maintain a local server, which will allow the authorities to monitor the user activity. He further added that the app makers have been given a week’s time to comply. The authorities have been communicating with the service provider since March “to no avail.” The lack of actions from the service providers has left the authorities with no choice but to block the services.

On being asked when the WhatsApp services would be blocked, the official replied “It is highly likely before Ramadan.”

Similar move against RIM

Earlier also, the Saudi Arabian government have resorted to similar actions on messaging apps. In 2010, authorities temporarily blocked Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) BlackBerry messenger services after the company failed to comply with the country’s regulatory requirements. At that time, the authorities accused the BlackBerry that an encrypted security in the network prevents the government from monitoring communications channels, which may threaten the national security.

Also in March this year, the authorities warned popular Internet chat, call and messaging services Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber to comply with the regulations or face the consequences.

Local’s reaction

The locals of the region believe that the blocking of Viber and other applications is not in the interest of the country, and will hinder the Kingdom’s advancement in global technology and modernization. According to a local businesswoman, Skype is a popular tool she uses to communicate with colleagues in the UAE and other countries, and blocking the service will severely escalate the costs.