broken The horrible state of the Internet in the Middle EastIf you’re looking for good news, this is not one of them. And yes, this picture is as broken as the Internet in the region.

Following yesterday’s hype around Iran’s crippled Internet, or filter-net, with access to social networking coming to a complete stop and Iran’s announcement to block access to Gmail and replace it with a national email service. Libya has decided to block access to YouTube.

Though left unexplained by the Libyan government, the reason is clear to any Middle-Eastern: Censorship of content that might be offensive to culture, religion or society. There’s even fear that blogs could be next on censorship list.

While some could approve of such behavior with the objective to ensure that the youth is not exposed to the wonders of the Interweb, I think it’s utter nonsense. How bad does it have to get until people realize that this is not what the Internet is supposed to be? How long before tech blogs like The Next Web get filtered for even publicizing this?

I take pride in being from the Middle East, but not at times like these. It’s a pure reflection of closed-mindedness, lack of education and being completely unaware of how much damage this is causing.

In the UAE? You already know that Flickr is blocked along with all pornographic, Israeli, VoIP, and all search queries with obscenities in them.

If you thought this was bad, let’s take a look at what the Syrian filter-net looks like (might vary by ISP):

  • YouTube – it’s worth mentioning that YouPorn is not blocked!
  • Wikimedia.org: with the exception of the English wikipedia minus the images and the stylesheet (hosted on wikimedia)
  • Amazon and all Amazon S3 services
  • Facebook
  • All Google searches with the word Israel, domain names including Israel in the name or TLD
  • Miscellaneous Arab news websites such as Al Bawaba and AlSharq Al Awsat

And that’s just from within Syria. Lots of servers refuse requests originating from Syria due to the US embargo:

  • Google: Code, App Engine, Google Gears, Chrome/Chrome OS, Android resources
  • Microsoft: Windows Live Messenger blocked for all Syrian registrants
  • Paypal, Google Adsense, Skype, Nokia Ovi Store, Sun Java SDK, and all sites hosted on GoDaddy!

I’m not going to delve into a political debate. Embargo and conflict aside, this is plain ridiculous. Maybe this is what Google Day should have been all about. Our leaders are driving us down. It’s time we did something about it.

Via Maghrebia. Thanks to @afahad for the comprehensive Syrian list.