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Reader Mail: ‘Splaining Saudi Censorship

Replying to yesterday’s query, a Via Meadia reader, who grew up in Saudi Arabia in the 50s and 60s and worked there in the 1970s, wrote in with some thoughts as to why Internet censorship is different there than in China or Iran:

Saudi Arabia is not a theocracy in the sense that Iran is nor a totalitarian state like China.

It is an absolute monarchy but one that still has to rely on the support of princes, Western-educated elites, and entrepreneurs and businessmen as well as the religious for its legitimacy.

All of these will object strenuously to internet censorship particularly with half the country on The Twitter.

Moreover, there is enough technologcial moxie in the Kingdom that internet censorship would be handily worked around.

The Royal Family consists of thousands upon thousands of princes and their extended families who are not going to take kindly to restrictions on internet access, and exempting them would cause an uproar among the populace.

Though the Grand Mufti doesn’t like Twitter much it also serves the purposes of Islamic da’wa, and it is difficult to see how one could half-censor Twitter.

The Kingdom relies on an army of expatriate workers to keep it operational, a reality not encountered in Iran or China.

It takes the lure of huge salary premiums to get these expats to work in a country with one of the world’s most inhospitable climates. Internet censorship would just be another negative to working there.

It is not very well understood that King Abdallah is regarded among young Saudis as a rock star for his reformist and liberal inclinations.

He understands quite well the need for freedom in a modernizing society and is not likely to be awayed in the direction of increased control simply because the Grand Mufti’s nose is out of joint.

The Twitter revolution in Saudi Arabia is analagous to the Blog Revolution in Iran starting in 2000. But blogs are different from Twitter because identities are far more persistent on blogs than on Twitter.

Interesting analysis. Thanks to our reader for taking the time to write. As always, feel free to with your thoughts, tips, and corrections. We really appreciate it, and read everything you send our way.

And stay tuned for some important site-related news next week!

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