China, Italy and Saudi Arabia have all begun the new year with major increases in Internet regulation.
China has banned all VoIP services other than those provided by China Telecom and China Unicom, in a bid to protect the state-owned duopoly. The decision will make popular services such as Skype and UUCall unavailable in China. However, commentators have questioned the technical feasibility of blocking western VoIP services without impeding services from local suppliers.
The Italian Authority for Communications Guarantees has passed two resolutions classifying YouTube, Vimeo and other user-generated video sites as television stations. Any site which “curates” user-generated content will now be held to have “editiorial control” over that content, even if such “curating” occurs only through automatic algorithms. This means that YouTube et al. can be held legally accountable for all content hosted on their sites. In an entirely unrelated matter, the Berlusconi owned broadcasters Gruppo Mediaset are suing YouTube in the Italian courts for allowing users to share copyrighted video content.
In Saudi Arabia, new laws will require all new blogs, websites and forums to acquire a license from the Ministry of Culture and Information (MOCI), according to a report in ArabianBusiness.com. Licensees must be Saudi nationals, over 20 years of age and educated to at least high school level. The laws also require online newspapers to have their chief editors formally approved by MOCI.
“Another worrying piece in the law says those who get permission must provide the ministry with the information of their hosting company,” writes prominent Saudi blogger Ahmed Al Omran.
“We can conclude from this that MOCI won’t simply block your website for readers inside the country, but they can also deny access to your website from anywhere by forcing the hosting company to take your site offline altogether.”