Introduction to Content Filtering

What is this service?:

The Internet Services Unit oversees and implements the filtration of web pages in order to block those pages of an offensive or harmful nature to the society, and which violate the tenants of the Islamic religion or societal norms.  This service is offered in fulfillment of the directions of the government of Saudi Arabia and under the direction of the Permanent Security Committee chaired by the Ministry of the Interior.

Types of Materials Blocked:

The types of materials which the ISU is directed to block are few, most noteworthy among them are pornographic web pages which consist of 95% of all blocked web pages.  As for the other categories, they consist mainly of pages related to drugs, bombs, alcohol, gambling and pages insulting the Islamic religion or the Saudi laws and regulations.

How are they filtered?:

KACST maintains a central log and specialized proxy equipment, which processes all page requests from within the country and compares them to a black list of banned sites.  If the requested page is included in the black list then it is dropped, otherwise it is executed, then the request is archived.  These black lists are purchased from commercial companies and renewed on a continuous basis throughout the year.  This commercial list is then enhanced with various sites added locally by trained staff.

Performance:

The difference between filtered and unfiltered web page retrieval reaches on average no more than half a second, which is too miniscule a timeframe for most humans to perceive.

Usefulness of Filtering:

God Almighty directed humanity in the Nobel Qur’an in the words of His prophet Joseph: “He said: My Lord, prison is more beloved to me than that to which they entice me, and were you not to divert their plot away from me I will be drawn towards them and be of the ignorant.  So his Lord answered him and diverted their plot away from him, truly, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower”  Yusuf(12):33-34

Confirmation from modern scientific studies:

In a study by Cass Sunstein in the Duke Law Journal it was found that countries which impose strict laws relating to prevention of pornography enjoy a reduction in the rate of rape and murder and vice versa.  Similarly, in a study conducted by the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography and another conducted by the University of New Hampshire it was found that those states trafficking most heavily in pornography saw a similar increase in the rate of rape.  Specifically, Alaska and Nevada were the two states with the highest rates of pornographic materials (five times that of other states), accompanied by a similar increase in rape activity (eight times that of other states). 
 

Requesting the blocking and unblocking of sites:

The Internet Services Unit receives hundreds of requests per day from concerned citizens for the blocking of new objectionable sites.  It similarly receives a number of unblocking requests each day.  All of these requests are given their just attention.  It is possible for anyone to submit such a request by using the special forms set up for such requests on the ISU web page at http://www.isu.net.sa

Supplementary filtering:

It is the policy of the ISU to filter out only the absolute minimum possible number of web pages possible to fulfill its duties.  As for those parents, teachers or other individuals who would like to achieve a higher degree of filtration or control on their personal, school or other personal computers they may take advantage of any number of personal software packages that allow for a much more extensive degree of control for these machines.  Examples of such packages are: Cybersitter, Netnanny, CyberPatrol, CyberSentinel, Cyber Snoop, SurfWatch, WebChaperone, and X-Stop.

Yet other software packages allow for the discreet monitoring and logging of all web pages visited by a given computer, or the imposition of specific time limits on Internet usage

 
 

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