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Catch me if you can: Internet Activism in Saudi Arabia

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on the right so the next to halt its catch me if You Can Internet activism in Saudi Arabia now I have 1 question for you who has ever been in Saudi Arabia like actually in the country and note to buy is not Saudi Arabia yeah yeah dice a couple of hindsight for radio some that that's actually more than I thought I surprise because you can just get a tourist visa Saudi Arabia even if you would like to go there and that next the 2 C has been in Saudi Arabia and actually lived and worked there for 2 years so Miriam also known to you maybe as new June and has quite some knowledge about the and the culture of people and politics of this country that seems quite foreign to its old so we all excited to hear me and now yeah like the laws that if thank you very much for the kind introduction and welcome everyone I'm super excited to talk to you today about Internet activism and Saudi Arabia it's 1 of my favorite subjects I could go on and on for hours but we just have half an hour so let's dive right into it 1st I want to show you what I want to tell you today about emphasis on to give you some basic information about Saudi Arabia and then we're going to look at Saudi Arabia has some cybercrime law and see how it has affected activists in recent years and then I want to talk about Internet censorship and how we can actually measure this by running in when the probe and then finally because I don't want to the oppressed and depressed and I also want to spend some minutes on talking about positive things so all of
the modern state of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 by the house out family who was still ruling to this very day and it's an absolute monarchy and the culture is dominated by an old pro conservative branch of Islam that is called Wahhabism and due to its riches from the oil industry the country's actually quite modern when it comes to a commodities and technology and and I'm going to
throw some statistics you the total population of Saudi Arabia was around 33 million people and 75 per cent of them are younger than the age of 13 and you can see here the population pyramids of Saudi Arabia compared with the population pyramid of Germany and you get a very good idea what a country with the younger population looks like versus a country with an older population and the young population of Saudi Arabia as 1 of the factors why so many Saudis are active on social media compared to other countries I'm that around 75 per cent of the population are owning a smartphone and 35 per cent are really active on social media and active in this case means that they log into their social media accounts at least and once every month the
25 per cent of the population are active users on facebook and 20 per cent of the population are active on Twitter and some of the Twitter users account for 40 per cent of all Twitter users and the whole Arab world and that's a lot of people and if you can remember any of the statistics right now never mind the important thing to take away from this is the population of Saudi Arabia was very young and most of them are active on social media and on the internet and now that we are all excited about the widespread use of social media in Saudi Arabia let's have a look at Saudi Arabia cybercrime long
Saudi Arabia cybercrime law wasn't stated in 2007 and the law specifies what is seen as a sign of a crime and which crimes are met with which punishments and most of the articles are just what you would expect from a cybercrime law but have a look at Article 6 paragraph 1 that you can see here that since there at the end the that the cyber crime and is it that actions on the Internet are considered a crime if they are a threat to public order religious values public morals the CNN article 7 focuses on in relation to terrorism or being active on the internet in regards to terrorism and as you can probably imagine the problem here is that these are a super vague terms that are not really defined which means that any judge can give his own interpretation of what he things qualifies as a cybercrime what you things is a threat to public safety or to public morals In 2011 those minor crime law was overhauls and the Saudi government introduced new rules and regulations so that now Internet newspapers and also bloggers had to obtain a license from the Ministry of Culture and Information and in 2014 the cybercrime law was overhauled once again so that now the Saudi authorities could also take legal action against social networking sites like Twitter and because they were just allow accounts to be active that would supposedly promote adultary homosexuality and atheism and Saudi authorities are also trying to regulate the content of YouTube channels and now you would think that something that's called cybercrime law is used to actually chase and catch and convicts of the bad guy and M. crime law actually does that
in July this year a Saudi man was sentenced to 7 years in prison and a 10 years travel ban because he was supporting the terror organization dies also called ISIS and he had tried to travel to Syria and some also support the fighting there but he was also convicted of other charges he was also convicted of the charges saying that he was preparing storing and sending material that would harm the public through his tweets and also his tweets were supposedly insulting the Saudi rulers his cell phone was confiscated his Twitter that account was close and he is forbidden to to beat for up to 5 years after his release from prison now this is just 1 case I but up until 2014 the Saudi religious police claimed that they had closed over 10 thousand Twitter accounts and they had arrested plenty of users because of religious and ethical violations but some of the people who are prosecuted under this out cybercrime law are actually just liberal activists their young people who try to form the movements and they want to be outspoken on the internet so they want to complain and push for change the and going to meet some of them 1st uh possession of
the out he's an artist and a poet and he was arrested and sentenced because of apostasy because of things that he's supposedly said on Twitter and in 1 of his books and when police failed to bring proof his apostasy or atheism they said that he was arrested because he was smoking and wearing long hair a and it is actually some of those suspected that he was arrested because previously had made a video of the Saudi religious police lashing a young man and public in his hometown and opined had been posted that video online and a lot of people think that this is the real reason why he was arrested and the sentence has changed many times in different appeal courts from 4 years in prison and 800 lashes to a death sentence because of the suppose that apostasy and then back to 8 years in prison and 800 lashes and Amnesty International classifies for yard as a prisoner of conscience and conscience and as far as I know he is still imprisoned today a studies also young poet
and writer he was arrested because of 3 retweets that he had written about effective meeting with the prophet Mohammed he was accused of blasphemy or apostasy as well to which the penalty is usually death under Sharia law he tried to leave the country and claim asylum in New Zealand but he was called edge quell employ airport and was brought back to Saudi Arabia and arrested and he was held in prison for 2 years without trial and similar to the case of OJ covering that the accusation of apostasy is actually highly suspicious to be an excuse because cash that he was very publicly outspoken on the Internet and social media he had supported the arab spring you are supporting pro-democracy movements and Saudi Arabia he had criticized authorities about mishandling the jet of flat disaster and other issues and he was released in October 2013 not annotate is a young
Saudi woman was arrested because she was very active in the movement against the male guardianship system and she was very active in the movement to abolish the system is see in Saudi Arabia every woman has to have a male guardian and even when they are grown-ups when they are adults and wiser problem without the permission of the consent of their male legal guardians women cannot go to university they cannot take up jobs they can't go see the doctor they can't the country in a lot of other things and the guardian can be the father husband uncle brother or even the an activist and Saudi Arabia have fought for a very long time to abolish this male guardianship system and he can see the Twitter account of money annotate these you can see that she has almost 50 thousand followers and here and merge with a bio you see 1 of the core of the movement and which is active and it's an Arabic hashtag and it translates to sell the women want the abolishment of the guardianship system actually herself tried to flee abusive brothers and have found out and you move to a different city to live her own life and then she was arrested at her workplace because the father had filed a runaway report but very soon the charges against her changed from being a runaway to disruption of public order because of her activism on Twitter and house was searched in a cell phone and her laptop were confiscated after 104 days in detention without trial she was released in July this year and her release was actually deemed a very big success and a victory by Saudi feminists because she was released from prison without the presence or the permission of a male guardian because usually held words as if a woman is released from prison mermaid garden has to pick her up if he doesn't do that she just stays in detention but she was released just like that and here you can see 2
designs of this Audi artist miss a fast on the left you see a poster that she designed to support the release of Maryam Alotaibi from prison the hajduks as we are all modern Muller KB and on the right you see another design that she did that is a very famous father the movement to abolish the marriage guardianship system and this has stick says I am my own guardian the gentleman who is now a
young Saudi woman was arrested in December 2014 when she was trying to drive her car over the border from the United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia shortly before she had to read and follow me on Twitter to find out what will happen at the border and she had for a very long time been active in the woman to drive movements that means that she had already posted videos of herself driving and Saudi Arabia online showing how she was defying the ban on women driving she laughter we did this whole experience of being the time detained at the border of a passport was confiscated her friend and lawyer who came to her support was also arrested and ultimately she was released after 73 days without trial alive but we is probably the
activist that most of you have heard of because Amnesty International that a huge campaign to use the port has reason also his wife was very active publicly the Web Press release he is a writer and activist and he was arrested in 2012 he was charged of insulting Islam through allochronic channels and he was brought to court on several charges including apostasy and as you already know by now the death penalty uh is it included when you are charged of apostasy and similar usher before he had his sentence was changed multiple times the different appeal courts and eventually he was sentenced to 10 years in prison and a fine and thousand lashes of which only the 1st 50 were administered probably because of international attention and outrage and what you got rise but only in trouble in the 1st place was setting up a web site there was called Saudi free Sally liberals in court he was accused of setting up a website that undermines general security ridiculing Islamic religious figures and going beyond the realm of obedience and he was told that his website would violate Islamic values and propagates liberal thought and the court ordered his website to be closed and he is still imprisoned today
the last active is that we're going to look at is Muhammad cited by Jaggi he was prior to his arrest also very politically active in 2009 for example you manage the website there was called monitor of human rights in Saudi Arabia and he is also the cofounder of a Saudi Arabian human rights organization called the Saudis civil and political rights association he was also arrested his office was searched and Amnesty International labeled him a prisoner of conscience as well and they said that he was held solely for the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression assembly and association but in court however it he was charged with insurrection against the ruler instigating demonstrations and speaking with foreign media channels and he was sentenced to 4 years in prison and a 5 year ban on foreign travels
now even if you don't see yourself as an activist if you are active on social media in Saudi Arabia you can find yourself the center of unwanted attention and just a 2nd there are some conservatives who would flat out thing that be better is a sin in and of itself as you can see here and just 3 month ago actually study authorities urged citizens to monitor or each other if and to report posts on social media that would harm the state's reputation so as you can imagine that leads to a huge level of self-censorship when I was living and working in Saudi Arabia I once talked to a work contact and I asked him why he was more active on Twitter and he said the 1st day that he had signed up on Twitter he had received a direct message by a person you know and the message just said well come we are watching you and when you live in Saudi Arabia and you don't use a VPN or toward a all the time you inevitably run across a website that is blocked at some point for me for example that was the search engines start pension was trying to access that page I would land
on the site that would look like this and Saudi authorities are hosting a firewall which blocks access to thousands of websites and actually the Saudi authorities they openly acknowledged that widespread filtering takes place and they would say that a targets pornographic Islam related human rights and political science and as you can imagine criticism of the royal family and of Islamic teachings is generally not tolerated now rewind 3 years 3 years ago at Congress I ran into a guy named to wall and he told me how he and his friends were working on this on the project and they're running probes all over the world to measure the extent of filtering and internet censorship in different countries and so we teamed up and we did some measuring and Saudi Arabia end what
he stands for Open observatory network interference and I would very much like a tool to come on stage for a few minutes and to tell him just like tell you himself would what is all about and how running that probe in Saudi Arabia worked it might I and use only at the level of I'm in over here and along the way the in of look into the blocking of websites such as the 1 we saw in the previous slide in the Saudi Arabia of but also whether or not circumvention tools like poor VPNs work or do not work or whether or not to and now it is the messaging at blocked or not blocked around the world and we do this through of some apps that can be installed either on your mobile phone or on your computer i'm these runs by the tens of thousands of volunteers around the world altogether evidence of the internet censorship all around the world but the I guess I will not go too much into what would lead us of because we actually have the assembly Assembly on the 3rd floor where you call that universe and you're welcome to come by and that we can tell you about it but also we have a longer presentation on the 3rd day at 2 30 in the boardroom of and there I can go more into what would mean is about and how well we have been working with people like Meriam to collector of sort of undeniable evidence that Internet censorship is happening up but also how perfect thank you very much I would very I suggest that you go and see that talk as well as all apart from the web sites that you would expect to be blocked in Saudi Arabia like poor and gambling websites on the website of the Israeli secret service and there are plenty of other sites that are blocked and when he has compiled a very huge and comprehensive list of different websites that are blocked in Saudi Arabia that you can find on the website and I brought you 3 short examples just to show you what kind of web sites could be blocked on the left you always
see the information that is provided on the on the web page and on the right side you see it's a screenshot of the actual website that is blocked in Saudi Arabia so 1st up we have I'm I'm not alone out is the news media website with ties to his beloved
2nd we have behind that Oracle the high a religious group they are a religious minority and they are oppressed and pretty much all of the Arab countries this year actually their website is also blocked and the United Kingdom and Italy for whatever reason and thirdly we have
toxified upon it is 1 of many examples of different websites that offer services of anonymity and of circumvention and now because I don't want to leave you to depressed when you leave this talk and I also want to look at some positive things that have happened as well because despite all this persecution that I have talked about up until now I'm activists in Saudi Arabia have been able to secure some very important victories in the past years and if you have followed the news lately a little bit and maybe you have noticed that a lot of things are happening in Saudi Arabia and a lot of laws and traditions are changing and because of time restraints am only focusing on 2 issues here right now that I personally find especially important so the 1st
example Ahtisaari municipal elections in 2015 these were the very 1st elections when women in Saudi Arabia were allowed to actively and passively participates in the elections and in the end 20 women were elected to municipal councils out of 2 thousand seats that were open in these elections and women had to overcome and credible hurdles to participate or to be candidates for example organizations there were set up to educate women about the elections to help them to run as candidates and to tell them how to register these organizations were forbidden female candidates weren't allowed to hold public rallies they were not allowed to give speeches online in TV in public they were not allowed to post pictures of their faces put them on posters all was them anywhere really FIL women were basically confined to campaigning online really and especially registering as candidates but also as voters was super hard some women were flat out tonight being registered without being given any reason but 1 problem that also the man actually had only 1 problem was that voters In order to be registered they have to bring proof of their residency and they would usually prove that by showing a rental contract now the problem is that women cannot produce a rental contract because their names are not on these contracts but the names of their fathers of their husbands as is 1 of the many problems they had and this is 1 example from UQ because up until now I have talked a lot about error but there's also a huge and thriving and very important you keep seen in Saudi Arabia and the following video is by a famous so you group and the call to the 11 and they have a regular show that is called like appetite in this clip is actually part from 1 of the shows and they produced this video mocking how will how women were organizing and how women had to work so hard just participate in these elections while men were just lazy and enjoying the privileges and now let's see if this it
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months ago there's only King announced that that he would lift the ban on women driving and Saudi Arabia and starting from May next year women would be for the 1st time ever been known for the 1st time ever but for the 1st time in a long time they would be allowed to drive cars in Saudi Arabia and activists had campaigned for this change that campaigned for lift of the ban on women driving for a long time for many years is a long sorry I don't have that much time as I want you to talk to you about it and let me have 1 example here 1 out of many and this is a music video from 2013 and this went viral and Saudi Arabia and they were supporting the campaign by the women to drive movements who were trying to get the ban lifted and in the music video they are making fun of the baseless arguments that were used to justify the driving ban why women were not allowed to to drive cars and the context for the fall of 2013 is that at this time a lot of women were defined the ban on women driving there was driving around there were filming themselves while doing it the posting all these videos online a lot of women were arrested get more women were driving around and and yeah which is 1 of the videos that came out at that time there are also want show it to you and
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you know the story eventually after many years of activism the ban on women driving was lifted just now the work of really hard work of all the active this is just 1 of many aspects right was lifted by we have to appreciate this and here you see some of the reactions of women in Saudi Arabia being super happy about this development and
so a final thoughts and what can we learn from all of this I would say 1 thing that we can learn from it is the government is not your friend whatever technology is at their disposal they will use and they will not only use it to and catch terrorists and put them in prison that they will also use that technology all these laws to also persecute activists for example or anybody whom they label as terrorists because of this really vague terms and the cybercrime law and that is also why is really important that we don't let the government put back an hour safety like in our software anywhere because the wisdom the government is not your friend applies to pretty much every government really if you think about it and also you have heard of it Saudi government changes laws and seemingly becomes more modern and more liberal and tries to appease the young population and but you have to keep in mind that they are still super autocratic it's still an absolute monarchy in I don't think that this will change any time soon no matter how many news we get next year's about like women 1st women becomes Minister of Foreign Affairs or Saudi Crown Prince gives a speech about the importance of freedom of religion for the economy of something like this but still the government is trying to appease the younger generation and the an awful folks and that is at least something I think 1 of the important aspects here is how do they know with what they can appease the young generation well they know it because the young people keep telling them on social media all the time and they go to jail over and over for text speaking their minds for pushing for change and we have to acknowledge this as the victory and the sacrifice that it is and also shows us that it makes sense to keep speaking up and to tell the government what it is that they want and what it is that they want to change and to keep up the pressure because the rule of the royal family rests on a rather stable religious legitimation so they have to make an effort to stay in the good graces of the population because they certainly don't want to see another Arab Spring and their country and I am hoping that you can take away something from the store and that it has helped to help you to see the Saudis and different lice so that next time when someone talks to you about Saudi Arabia and how they are all rich beheading bigger you can tell them well not all Saudis and then you think of the activists and that you appreciate the hard work that Saudi activists are doing on the ground
all the time there's a lot more I would like to tell you but time is up and if you are interested in this kind of subject check out some of these talks I saw the talk tightening the net in Iran it was super go and watch it online see the video go and see the only talk also and the last I
would say thank you very much for your time and your attention Schone
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Metadaten

Formale Metadaten

Titel Catch me if you can: Internet Activism in Saudi Arabia
Serientitel 34th Chaos Communication Congress
Autor Seyffarth, Miriam (Noujoum)
Lizenz CC-Namensnennung 4.0 International:
Sie dürfen das Werk bzw. den Inhalt zu jedem legalen Zweck nutzen, verändern und in unveränderter oder veränderter Form vervielfältigen, verbreiten und öffentlich zugänglich machen, sofern Sie den Namen des Autors/Rechteinhabers in der von ihm festgelegten Weise nennen.
DOI 10.5446/34888
Herausgeber Chaos Computer Club e.V.
Erscheinungsjahr 2017
Sprache Englisch

Inhaltliche Metadaten

Fachgebiet Informatik
Abstract Activists in Saudi Arabia have been able to celebrate important victories like the recent lifting of the ban on women driving in September 2017 but have to fight on a lot of other front lines at the same time. Websites are blocked on a large scale and many activists are sent to jail on the grounds of a loosely used cybercrime law. This talk will give some insight into the current social and political strife happening on the Saudi Internet from a first-hand-perspective using some of the data collected in a collaboration with the OONI project.
Schlagwörter Ethics, Society & Politics

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