Saudi Arabia Lifts the Ban on Video and Voice Calls
The Saudi government lifted the ban on calls made through online applications but will continue to monitor and censor them, a government spokesman said on Thursday.
All online voice and video calls - such as Skype, WhatsApp, Messenger on Facebook and Viber - that meet the regulatory requirements, are available today.
On Thursday morning Messenger and Viber were apparently still blocked in the kingdom, Bloomberg reported.
Adele Abu Hamid, spokesman for the CITC telecoms regulator, told Arabia TV on Wednesday that the new regulations are primarily aimed at protecting users' personal information and blocking content that violates the laws of the kingdom.
Asked whether applications could be tracked by authorities or companies, he said: "Under no circumstances can users use a voice or video application without being monitored and censored by the Communications and Information Technology Commission, whether the application is global or local ".
Saudi Arabia, which has banned internet communications in 2013, and other neighboring Gulf countries are cautious, arguing that such services can be used by activists and terrorists.
The Gulf countries, particularly Bahrain, were generally spared by the mass protests during the Arab Spring, which were often organized over the Internet and in 2011 influnced much of the region.
Lifting the ban is part of the Saudi government's wide-ranging reforms to diversify the economy, partly in response to low oil prices which hit the country's finances.
However, the policy lifting may have negative impact on the three telecoms in Saudi Arabia - Telecom Co. (STC), Etihad Etisalat (Mobile) and Zain Saudi, who earn their revenues from international phone calls made by millions of foreigners living in the kingdom.
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