Have you ever tried to request to a certain website, but instead of it you have found yourself presented with a page that says that the website is blocked? This message is a direct result of content filtering used in KSA.
Filtering Service in Saudi Arabia
The filtering service started with the introduction of Internet in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, after the Council of Ministers Resolution No. 163 date 24.10.1417 H, which assigned providing the Internet services in the Kingdom to King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, represented by Internet Services Unit. In addition, among the responsibilities of the Internet Services Unit was implementing the required Internet content filtering for International Internet traffic, as all connections to the Internet pass through the servers of the Internet Services Unit.
A Permanent Committee headed by the Ministry of Interior and includes representatives from the concerned ministries and entities was formed to develop the filtering policies and to take the blocking/unblocking decisions.
In 1425 H the Internet filtering service was transferred to the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) as an implementation of the Council of Ministers Resolution No. 229 date 13.08.1425 H, and since that date, the CITC has undertaken the responsibilities of developing Internet Filtering measures and requirements, and started to provide the blocked sites daily database to data service providers, who provide the filtering technical solutions, in accordance with CITC requirements and policies.
Types of filtered materials
As per At the Council of Ministers Resolution No. 163 date 10.24.1417 H, the blocking is made for the websites and materials that are incompatible with Islamic religion and national regulations, and in compliance with the permanent security committee guidelines. The Commission assigned the task of directly blocking websites that promote pornography and provides a means of circumvention without having to refer to the Committee.
The filtering process is conducted through 2 lists one commercial and other local as followings:
· Commercial List
CITC has contracted with an International Company specialized in sites classification, to provide the commercial list, which includes more than 90 different classifications/categories. The blocking is made for the for pornography, gambling and drugs ratings. The list is updated by the company on a daily basis. In addition there is a continuous communication between CITC and the company to avoid any error in rating classification.
· Local List
The local list is prepared by CITC through the addition of sites that are recommended by public users, after reviewing and ensuring, that such sites contains illegal material. The URLs added to local list rated sites can be classified according to the content as following:
- Pornographic sites, which represent 92.80% of the local list.
- Sites that used to bypass filtering systems, which represent 4.43% of the local list.
- Other sites (such as: gambling, drugs, …) which represents 2.77% of the local list.
All requests are received from public users through the blocking/unblocking special forms. A ticket is opened for each request. URLs will be added only after being reviewed by CITC . The sites that fall under the CITC responsibilities (pornographic sites, sites that provide the means to bypass the filtration systems) are added directly to local list, all other requests are submitted to the committee for study and decision.
Internet and Filtering Service Infrastructure
Previously, all international Internet traffic from all Internet users has to pass through the Internet Service Unit at KASCT Access Point, as illustrated in next figure .
With the growth of Internet use in the Kingdom, and the increasing volume of data handled by the Internet, and in compliance of the ICT market liberalization, the infrastructure hierarchy has been developed and new data provision licenses issued, and that was synchronized with conjunction with the transfer oversight functions to CITC.
The new structure allows greater flexibility in the presence of more than one International Access Point to the Internet, In addition provides a more competitive environment that contributes to raising the service and quality level, and thus resulted in entry of a number of Internet Service Providers. The new Infrastructure is illustrated in next Figure .
Thus, technical roles are distributed between Internet Service Providers, Data Service Providers, and CITC.
The Communication and Information Technology Commission provides filtering lists (URLs). The DSPs provide filtering infrastructure in accordance with CITC requirements and policies and they download filtering and access lists on a daily basis on the available filtering systems. The CITC monitors DSPs filtration equipment and ensures their updates on a daily basis and their commitment to CITC policies and technical controls issued.