ABU DHABI Ñ Saudi Arabia has imposed new restrictions
on Internet cafes in an effort to stop Islamic insurgents from planning
Saudi authorities have drafted and distributed new regulations that would require
the cafes to identify and monitor users of the Internet.
Under the new rules, Internet clients must deposit their identity cards
and the cafe owners must register the names and ID numbers of users. The cafes must
detail the start and end of each Internet session and records must be
retained for six months.
[Over the weekend, Saudi police arrested four Saudis and a Pakistani in
Mecca, Middle East Newsline reported. The Saudi daily Okaz reported that the five suspects Ñ who included
teenagers Ñ were accused of distributing literature around the city's
mosques that sought to incite worshippers to attack the Saudi government.]
Officials said the regulations were imposed in wake of the May 12
suicide attacks by Al Qaida in Riyad. Al Qaida operatives were said to have
communicated via encoded messages on the Internet.
Saudi authorities reserve the right to demand the records of Internet
clients, officials. Those who violate the regulations could be subject to
fines and imprisonment.
Authorities have also banned anybody under 18 from using the Internet
unless accompanied by a guardian or sponsor. The regulations also restrict
Internet use to those sites deemed as in accordance with Islam or Saudi
security. This includes a ban on pornographic or political sites.
Last year, a Harvard University study reported that Saudi Arabia blocks
about 400,000 websites, including those that deal with health and humor. The
report said authorities monitor Internet use through Western systems
acquired by the
King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology.
Officials said the Internet was used by the No. 2 Al Qaida fugitive Ali
Abdul Rahman Al Ghamdi. They said Al Ghamdi, captured more than a month ago,
posted messages on Islamic websites.