ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – It's all about sex. That, at least, was the surprise conclusion that came bursting out of a panel discussion Monday on what people in the Arab world are looking for when they go to the Internet. In other words, they are like Web surfers everywhere else in the world. Ramzi El Khoury, the founder of an Arabic-language Internet portal, kicked up the temperature on the discussion during the second International Summit on Internet and Multimedia when he cited a study that found that 80 percent of Arab-world Internet traffic heads for sex sites. 'I disagree with Ramzi when he says that 80 percent of the traffic goes to sex sites,' said Khaldoon Tabaza, co-founder of Arabia Online in Amman, Jordan. 'Of course there is a much bigger need in the Arab world because of the sexual suppression,' he said. 'If it's illegal, then people want it.
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It's not because they are oversexed, or their sexual needs are more than other people. But if you make something illegal, especially something as natural as sex, then it becomes more in demand. 'Certain countries have very strict cultural and government regulation regarding the subject of sex. Foison Vinyl Cutter Usb Driver on this page. In Jordan, for example, you can have a girlfriend and have sex before marriage.
But not in a lot of the other countries.' The United Arab Emirates, like many other countries in the Arab world, block users from accessing such content – or at least try. For example, if a visitor at the Abu Dhabi Hilton types in www.playboy.com, he encounters a stop sign. A message pops up on the screen announcing that the site in question is on the 'Emirates Internet Control List.' The screen shows what looks like a large diamond-shaped stop sign reading, 'Blocked site,' flashing in English and Arabic. 'Emirates Internet denies access to this site,' the page reads.
'For more information on Emirates Internet services,.' El Khoury and others who favor political and cultural liberalization in the Arab world see the lure of the sex sites as a good thing. It gets people thinking about the larger world out there. 'We have to ask ourselves: Should government be allowed to censor the Internet?' 'Here in the United Arab Emirates and in Saudi Arabia and in Syria, there are government-controlled proxies that block traffic and filter it. So you cannot go to certain sites.
'Some proxies are advanced and powerful enough to block your searches. But no proxy is perfect. So people living in these countries become amateur hackers. They teach each other ways to reach certain sites.' And it's not like they are ever lacking in motivation, either. More importantly, El Khoury and others believe there are important social trends at work here. Sex is both graphic reality and metaphor for the possibilities out there, including something as taken for granted in the United States as news of the world.
Some of that traffic will be devoted to such mundane matters as e-commerce for basic household necessities. Haddad was arguing for that as a major advance. But not everyone agreed. 'I do not agree that you have to help the housewife to get a bar of soap or whatever she wants,' said Hosam El Sokkari, head of BBCArabic, which provides original Arabic-language news reporting on its site.
News like that from the outside world – El Sokkari works in London – changes the way people in the Arab world have access to information, not just directly, but indirectly. Arabic papers are gaining more freedom, bit by bit. 'Because a piece of news appears on the Internet, the newspaper is able to say, 'I am not publishing this news, I am not breaking this story, I am only republishing it,' El Khoury said. 'To censors, this is an important distinction.
'The governments have not changed in the Middle East. But they are forced to deal with a new reality. They need the Internet. They need IT. They have a choice: Either they are going to become backward, or they are going to liberalize. They are either going to allow their people to use the new technology that other people are using, or they are going to destroy their countries. What choice do they have?
'People like me see the Internet as an opportunity to work toward real, democratic government. It is a force too powerful for any government to stop, unless they want to harm their own people. And in the Arab world, governments are patriarchal. They do not want to harm their own people.
So it is just a matter of time.'