As we recently discussed, the world is seeing what amounts to a global clamp down
on internet freedom, spurred in part (but not entirely) by the various revolutions that have occurred in the Arab World over the past several years. Having said that, not all restrictive censoring governments are created equal. While we in the West have our censors and internet detractors too, one need only look at what is occurring in China
, or Saudi Arabia for that matter to see how fearful some governments are of an internet in which free ideas are exchanged.
So let's go ahead and add the United Arab Emirates to that list as well, as they enact new laws designed to prevent critics
of their President (don't be fooled, this is a monarchy), assembly of protest, and a host of other freedoms.
The decree outlines new protections for the state and its rulers, effectively turning online criticism into an offense punishable by years of jail time, or deportation for foreign nationals. The decree “stipulates penalties of imprisonment on any person publishing any information, news, caricatures or any other kind of pictures that would pose threats to the security of the state and to its highest interests or violate its public order,” according to WAM.
Classic authoritarian move. This is somewhat similar to what we've seen in China, as well, and I imagine it will work nearly as well (meaning in large part it won't). That said, there's been a demonstrably different reaction, or at least a difference in the scope of the reaction, in the Arab world. Perhaps that is why, while China has maintained its Great Firewall all this time without massive violent backlash, the Arab World certainly cannot claim the same. Obviously the Arab Spring was about much, much more than laws governing the internet, but those draconian laws are certainly a symptom of the greater disallusionment. While I understand the fear these monarchs have of the internet, there's no denying they are
Lately, there are signs of trouble all across the Arabian Peninsula. The implementation of strict new rules, like UAE’s new internet clampdown, shows that the monarchies are not blind to the simmering dissent around them. Nowhere is this clearer than in Bahrain, a constitutional monarchy that saw the largest unsuccessful protest on the peninsula last year. Saudi troops helped to quash those demonstrations, but the underlying problem -- a lack of fair political representation -- has not been addressed.
I would suggest that you're going to see more revolution in the Middle East as the curtailing of freedom out of fear by governments, such as the UAE's new internet law, continues. When you fear people who are angry about the government not representing them, further silencing those people will only further incense them. Thus far, some of these oil-rich monarchs have survived, occasionally propped up by the West. Fortunately, as the dependency by the West, particularly America, on Middle East oil continues to drop
, there will be less reason to help these governments resist their own people.