Various news sources, including the Shia International News Association, report that Saudi Arabia has blocked access to the popular encrypted messaging service Viber. Viber CEO, Talmon Marco told the BBC that he didn’t know why Viber was blocked and they expect to restore the service within a few days.
Viber, a free messaging and VoIP service, is used by many Saudis and expatriates to contact their friends and family without having to pay high international messaging and phone charges.
The Saudi Communications and Technology Commission (CITC) announced the ban and stated it will take “appropriate steps” against other such services unless they comply with regulatory requirements. Interestingly the CITC did not elaborate on what those requirements are.
Viber’s CEO said in a different statement that his company had refused to provide data requested by Saudi officials.
Conventional international calls and text messaging are a lucrative business for telecom operators in Saudi Arabia, which could, in part, have to do with the ban. However, it is more likely that the conservative plutocratic monarchy of Saudi Arabia feels threatened by encrypted messaging services they cannot directly control.
Will Skype and Whatsapp be next?
Image Credit: Bill Strain