Internet Filtering in Bahrain



The OpenNet Initiative’s testing of more than 6,000 sites in Bahrain revealed only eight sites blocked. Three were pornographic; the others covered political and religious topics. In each case, sites with similar content remained accessible, and altering the requested URL slightly made several filtered sites available. Bahrain’s legal system includes extensive potential controls of media, telecommunications, and the Internet, and its technical infrastructure has a single primary Internet Service Provider (ISP) and state-mandated Internet exchange point (IXP); this makes filtering relatively easy to implement. Our testing suggests that Bahrain’s filtering efforts have eased recently, but the recent arrests of the editors of a Web site, and the blocking of the site, indicate that Bahrain continues to combine technical and legal controls for on-line content. (Full Report – HTML) (PDF version)

What was interesting about working on Bahrain was that this country is often lumped in with China and Saudi Arabia when citing examples of Internet censorship along when in fact the amount of filtering in Bahrain is comparatively minuscule. Granted, they do have the infrastructure in place to increase the level of filtering at any time, but have chosen not to do so. In fact, they have even unblocked formerly blocked sites such as Voice of Bahrain (www.vob.org).

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