Saturday, March 14, 2009

This week's 'hole protects us...

...helps us make decisions and parents us and leads us from our devious ways. By being the moral compass of the internet, DU is able to decide for me (and you) what internet sites we can visit. I will admit, things are looser now than were when DU first introduced the proxy last year. A fellow blogger has a few dandy posts here. I recommend the blog as well, quite good reading the archived bits and he says he will be updating again soon. Seriously, how frustrating is it to see this page:

I read a quote on the aforementioned blog that something like 40% of the 'net is filtered or scrubbed for us here. In fact, the company that does it, Secure Computing, calls their morality tools "Webwashers". How appropriate. I am a big boy, I can make my own decisions and have my own moral compass, but like everything else here, the decision is made for you.

As a complete shocker, I see that the new "screw-you-we-say-no" page has changed! There is no longer any reference to the Religious, Cultural and Moral values of the UAE...yada yada yada. Let me double check. Yep, not there anymore. Instead they just say "because we said so". I guess that shoots my research and argument into the shitter. (I actually researched this one!) Well, those of us that have lived here for a while are familiar with the "consistent with.....etc. page". I guess I can assume we all know why the internet is washed here, the same reason you can't have a beer before sundown during Ramadan. Avoid temptation. If it's not available, you can't cheat, right?

Like I said in the opening paragraph, they ARE getting better, loosey-goosey, or maybe they did a while ago and I didn't notice. Or maybe the net-washers are in for repair. I dunno. I have been going through a list of sites that were published here and to my surprise, most sites were readily available. We have all had hassles with Youtube, Facebook and others (almost daily) as they are being scrubbed as we get the info into our computers. In fact, I would go so far as to high-five DU in their chilling out.

In doing the research for this post I stumbled across something surprising. SKYPE is accessible and free for download. I just did it tonight, no VPN. Switching to current affairs, the Israeli Government porthole is available. I thought all things Israeli were banned? Again, I'm impressed, DU. Again, maybe an accident. In researching, I found a few surprising things. Firstly, that Youtube was once blocked, as was social-retard site Twitter, of which I am a member. (went full retard second post). I was totally shocked to see that a site like UAE is readily available. They don't say nice things about the powers-that-be on that site.

If we fully delve into the sensitive nature of the UAE morality and internet blocking, there are a few weird ones. Why is the Budweiser website available? It always has been, as well as various other "infidel juice" websites. I don't get that one, infidel juice is evil. Other infidel-related activities that have been, and still are freely available are web pages with instructions how to obtain "herbal products" in Amsterdam, as well as pages of "herbal remedy coffee shops". I was totally shocked before my recent trip there that the ads and links are all over when you Google ANYTHING Amsterdam related. Like that is the only reason for going.

My wife and I download a great deal of torrents, as the TV also sucks here. (Hey that's provided by DU as well). We use a couple of very pedestrian sites to get our boob-tube. Occasionally, there are some good TV shows on I won't link it, as it is blocked. Apparently this site has some bad-boy, internet voodoo tools on it, but rather than blocking those sections, they block the whole damn site! Thanks guys!

This one is funny, but again an example of how they are loosening up there at DU. A family friend was looking at having some cosmetic surgery to fix some Caesarian scars on her tummy. She had seen Dr. 90210 on TV, but could not access the site to read about the procedure. When she called me I thought she was joking when she said the site was blocked. I went over and installed "my little friend" in her computer and Bob's yer uncle. Why was it blocked? It had pictues of Vajay-jays on it. These weren't s.e.xy V's, but medical Vajay's. C'mon DU, a Doctor's website? It just occurred to me to re-check, and lo-and-behold, it works fine, even the photos.

Now the dodgy shit. We all know the internet is ripe with porn. Seems you can't Google anything without there being an element of porn listed. What about dating? Is that SUCH a problem? I happen to know someone here in Dubai that genuinely wants to connect with someone. If you are not into the bar scene, work long hours, etc. How does a middle aged lady meet someone. I, for one, applaud her in being resourceful enough to look to internet match-making sites. The problem is, is blocked here. Seems you were meant to be solo and lonely here, the problem compounded if you work for a Government or local business with no social outlets. If you Google "Dubai dating Forum" you get pages of links available. Mostly forums and expat help sites, but still the same opportunities avail themselves there. The opportunities are there for fornicating if you like.

Something I noticed and long suspected is that the DU webwashing machines are language related or something to that effect. I still can't figure it out. Some sites load, some don't. By the time I wrote this and then went to make sure links worked, etc. some didn't. Are they following me? How did that happen? At least be consistent in your blocking, right? The parameters are fed into the the computer and it scrubs and culls until someone actually fills in the "bitch" form and submits it. That's fine and dandy, but why are mellow, low key dating sites blocked, but much more raunchy, foreign sites are not? Seeing as we were just in Amsterdam, the land of alleged debauchery, I Googled "Amsterdam escort service" and got pages of results that loaded, actually every second one loaded. Not sure what the deal is there. I was sure it was because they had a .nl extension, that's why they would load. I was kinda right, but not really. I don't get it. Seems you can't meet a nice ladyfriend or manfriend online here, but you CAN line up your hooker for a trip abroad. Try it and see what you get.

The real gaping hole in the whole net-washing thing is peer-to-peer filesharing sites like Limewire. It seems Limewire is turning into the same bag of shit that Napster and Kazaa once were. You type into the search box "Paris Hilton" because you want to hear her new cutting-edge-I-want-to-be-relevant single, but instead, it is nothing but links to her "film debut" and the occasional song. All the content on Limewire is downloadable, so what is DU doing to sensor that? Internet censorship is a touchy issue everywhere in the world. I am of the opinion that the individual user can make their choice what sites to visit and which ones not to. For those that want to protect their kids, they can download or install filters for their kids (although I am sure the kids are smart enough to hack around it). I think the random blocking, although admittedly getting more liberal is another perfect example of a half-assed attempt by the powers that be to instill their values and morals on the rest of us.

A special treat for those that read this far:

Another thing that seems to work is if the dirty pictures or video are embedded in a blog. I was researching this piece last night and testing out the proxy and what it picked up and did not pick up. You know how it link-to link-to link...then eventually get lost in the cyber world. Anyhoozles...I ended up on some (I think) German or Czech blog. I can't read a damn thing, but ended up clicking away at the hyperlinks. I was definitely "lost in translation" trying to prove my point. It was just perfect when my wife came downstairs to see me sitting at the computer with some chick stripping in a video window. I didn't ask for it (AFAIK) it was just there. Maybe if DU had their shit together, it would have saved me that hassle. "Sure you're surfing porn for research"...."right".

She is still not talking to me. DU, you are definitely assholes.


Anonymous said...

hahahaha... good one, especially the last part... cmon watching strip videos!!!! :D

I agree with everything you mentioned about the censorship however I still look at it from the positive side... I mean, Etisalat and DU censored everything so that families don't have to go into the hassle of blocking the content from their kids.. and YOU and I as adults can have our own tools to bypass this.

I read in the newspaper a confirmation by a senior guy from Etisalat saying if we (as individuals) bypass the proxy is not considered an offense or illegal...

the problem with the proxy is that it blocks the website based on keywords which a script scan the website and if it finds wrong keywords then the page will be blocked.. this results with innocent/clean websites getting blocked for no reason.

great article :)

Reality Check said...

Thanks for the comments, as always, and thanks for taking the time to read such a wordy piece.

I think it 100% the parent's responsibility to monitor their kid's surfing habits. I do not see any reason why the gov't needs to instill values in us.

As I mentioned in the article, the proxy is not bulletproof. There are plenty of "bad" sites easily available.

I hardly ever encounter the "site block" page, however with certain aspects of Youtube being blocked, we'll see what happens in the future!

Bottom line, IMHO, adults and parents should be the moral compass, not the ISPs.