The Blocking of Viber in Saudi Arabia

  1. Mansour Alaithan
  2. Ali alakalifa


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  • What’s Viber ?

Viber is a app for instant messaging also for Voice over IP (VoIP) for smart phones owned by Viber Media. Not only voice messaging but also users able send and receive images, video and audio media messages, Viber was founded by four Israeli partners and they are Talmon Marco, Igor Megzinik, Sani Maroli and Ofer Smocha.

Viber Mediais registered as a Cyprus company in Las Vegas and its development centers located in Belarus and Israel. The foundeders of the company are Talmon Marco and Igor Megzinik, who are friends from the Israel Defense Forces. The company is running from Israel, with lot of the app’s developments outsourced to Belarus in order to lower labor-costs.

It was founded in 2010, with the four Israeli co-owner of the company who have each increased their exploitation by more than 30 times on the startup’s $900 million sale to Rakuten.

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  • What happened?

In March Saudi government have warned encrypted messaging services like Viber and others that would be blocked if they don’t provided a means to be monitored.

The head manager Marco had refused to provide the requested data to Saudi officials.

It was expected that Viber’s free voice calls and text messaging service is no longer working in Saudi Arabia is not entirely unexpected.

Telecoms regulator of Saudi Arabia had warned them also warned Skype and WhatsApp .they would be blocked if they did not provide the date requested .

Saudis and expatriates that lives in Saudi Arabia were prompted by this warning to protest against this move. Others started to censor their messages, in case they were already being monitored.

The head manager told BBC that Saudi IPS and mobile operator begun to asking for information about the internal workings of the service a couple of months ago of that time .

Circumventing the problem: Marco said Viber had faced the same problem of blocking the app in other county. There, he said he believed the motive was political, but in Saudi Arabia it was unclear whether commercial interests might also be at stake.

Marco ( the head of the messaging application) Viber has said people in Saudi Arabia have had basic freedoms taken away, after his service was blocked there.

So we face here a freedom of speech problem .

The head manager Marco told the BBC he did not know the reason for the move, but that Viber would be restored soon.

So this problem rises couple of question, like what is the meaning of freedom of speech, what are the limits and law in Saudi Arabia, and what the ethical issue did Viber rises by not providing information.

  • what is the meaning of freedom of speech

Freedom of speechis the civil right to connect one’s opinions and ideas. The word freedom of expressionis occasionally used synonymously, but contains any act of seeking, getting and telling information or ideas, nevertheless the medium used.

Rules restrict speech with varying limits. Common limits on speech relate to slander, libel, obscenityseditionpornography, incitementfighting wordsclassified informationhate speechcopyright violationtrade secretsnon-disclosure agreementsright to be forgottenright to privacy, public securitypublic nuisancepublic order, campaign finance reform and oppression. Whether these limits can be defensible under the harmbe contingent upon whether manipulating a third party’s opinions or activities harmfully to the second party founds such harm or not.

The words “offense principle” is also usedto grow the range of free speech limits to forbid forms of expression where they are measured offensive to people, different interest groups or persons. For example, freedom of speech is limited in many rules to broadly different grades bysystems, religiousor incitement to ethnic or racial hatredrules.

  • Privacy

Privacy is the gift of an individual or group to separate themselves, or information about themselves, and thereby definite themselves selectively. The limits and content of what is measured private vary among cultures and individuals, but share common themes. When something is private to a person, it usually means that something is integrally special or sensitive to them. The domain of privacy partly overlays security, which can include the ideas of appropriate use, as well as defense of information. Privacy may also take the procedure of bodily integrity.

The right not to be subjected to illegal invasion of privacy by the government, businesses or individuals is part of many countries’ privacy laws, and in some cases, compositions. Almost all countries have laws which in some way bound privacy. An example of this would be law concerning assessment, which normally require the distribution of information about personal income or earnings. In some countries individual privacy may clash with freedom of speech laws and some laws may need public expose of information which would be measured private in other countries and cultures.

Privacy may be willingly sacrificed, normally in exchange for professed benefits and very often with exact dangers and losses, while this is a very strategic view of human relations. In the business world, a person may agree personal details (frequently for advertising purposes) in order to bet on winning a prize. Private information which is voluntarily shared but then stolen or misused can chief to identity theft.

  • what are the limits and law in Saudi Arabia

Human rights in Saudi Arabia are proposed to be created on the Hanbali Islamic religious laws under complete rule of the Saudi royal family. Saudi Arabia has a “Counter-Radicalization Program” the drive of which is to “fight the spread and appeal of intemperate beliefs among the general populous” and to “impart the true values of the Islamic faith, such as tolerance and moderation.” This “tolerance and control” has been termed into problem by The Baltimore Sun, based on the reports from Amnesty International regarding Raif Badawi.

Speech, the press and other methods of communicative media, containing television and radio broadcasting and Internet reception, are actively censored by the government to prevent political opposition and anything deemed, by the government, to be offensive to the Wahhabi culture or Islamic morality.

In 2008, a noticeable Saudi blogger and reformist Fouad al-Farhan was caged for posting comments online that were dangerous of Saudi business, religious and media figures, signifying a move by the government to step up its censorship polices of the Internet within its limits.

Online social media has progressively come under government search for dealing with the “forbidden” topics. In 2010 a Saudi man was punished and given jail time for his sexually suggestive YouTube video making. That same year another man was also caged and ordered to pay a fine for arrogant about his sex life on television.

And there is a lot of other examples happened with similar problems. It show that the low in Saudi Arabia does not tolerate any action that against the religion or the security of the country in anyway and allowing a free call like Viber and other that share tons of information without being monitor by the government is can cause an infringement of the rules in Saudi Arabia .

That’s add a pros to the Saudi Arabia side that they have a right to ask for information. It’s the country rights to track down and search for crimes and protect the religions lows.

But still one problem is the privacy of the people and that’s a pros in Viber side. So how this issue is unethical to privacy and what are the limits and the concept of privacy in Saudi Arabia

  • Privacy in Saudi Arabia

Data Safety under Shari’ah Values Shari’ah ethics protect each individual’s right to privacy and forbid any assaults thereon. In Shari’ah principles, revelation of secrets is forbidden except inter alia where the owner of the relevant secret agrees to such confession or if the public attention requires so. The Holy Qu’ran and the Sunnah do not specify a consequence for revelation of secrets; however, as clarified above, such release may be punishable by a value that a judge, in his discretion, deems right and fair. Such consequence may include a fine, imprisonment or scarcity of certain rights such as suspension of a practicing license. Data Protection under Saudi Arabian Law In general, there is no exact data protection law in KSA. Therefore, in the absence of specific necessities on data protection, Saudi Arabian courts and adjudicatory bodies will understand data privacy abuses under general Shari’ah principles, which are, as described above, often sent in general terms and afford courts and adjudicatory bodies huge discretion. We understand, however, that a new individual data protection law is under review by the Shura Council

  • Discussions and Recommendations
  • The Saudi government should have the right to protect its people and the whole system.
  • Meanwhile the Viber wants to give the privacy to its user which is what people needs.
  • Saudi Arabia follows the Shari’ah which proved the privacy to people , and that why it should and not block it just to monitor the users private message in KSA , and by return it and unblock the service , they’ve done the right thing .
  • Conclusions

Saudi Arabia tried to provide the security to people but did not puts in count the other basic fundamental right which is providing privacy to people.



Expected content

Mark contribution


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Clear discussions, comparisons of opinions, and useful analysis highlighting civil, professional and legal and ethical issues.


Report discusses issues in light of the Saudi laws and legislations which apply to the studied topic.


Use a “Discussions and Recommendations” section which is to be included in the report before the “Conclusions” section.



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Report is divided into balanced and justified sections/subsections.



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