Saudi Arabia’s Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) will shortly block messaging app WhatsApp, the daily al-Hayat reported on Sunday. The newspaper said it was informed by senior sources at the regulator that the move to block the popular app comes after negotiations with WhatsApp makers to meet regulatory requirement in the Kingdom reached a dead end.
Local media reported earlier this year that CITC has requested from telecom companies to find ways to monitor encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp and Skype. If communication through these apps cannot be monitored then they should be blocked, the newspapers said. There has been much speculation since then over if and when CITC will block apps.
On June 5 CITC blocked Viber, another instant messaging app, saying it has failed to meet the regulatory requirement of Saudi Arabia, adding that other apps like WhatsApp and Skype are being put under review and could be blocked soon.
The report in al-Hayat carried criticism to CITC, not for taking steps to block apps but rather for failure to encourage the local software industry to develop alternative messaging apps that can be controlled by authorities here, citing examples in China where users behind the Great Firewall use local apps like Weibo as alternatives for Twitter.
UPDATE: CITC denied the report in al-Hayat, saying via Twitter that the Comission has not made any statement to the media about blocking WhatsApp.
لم يصدر عن الهيئة أي تصريح لصحيفة الحياة أو غيرها من وسائـل الإعلام بخصوص الواتساب في المملكة، وأي جديد في الموضوع سيعلن عنه بشكل رسمي
— هيئة الاتصالات CITC (@CITC_SA) July 7, 2013
Photo courtesy of Luis via Flickr