Public demonstrations are banned in Saudi Arabia. We don’t have codified laws, so you will not find any official text that explicitly says it, but everybody knows it. What do we do when we want to protest publicly? We go to the internet and start a campaign online. Back in 2006 I wrote, ”Online campaigning is appealing to many people because most of the time it doesn’t take much resources.” Most of the time it takes little more than starting a freely hosted blog, design a few banners, maybe add a mailing list, and viola! you have a campaign.
This year alone, we have seen a plethora of campaigns that goes from the useful to the useless, and everything in between. We had the Khalooha… series, which covered topics like greed of car dealerships, women’s rights, and marriage expenses among other things. Most recently we had two confusing, similar but apparently opposing campaigns on the issue of male guardianship. But what I want to talk about today is a campaign called SaudiFlager (sic).
SaudiFlager’s goal is to clean up YouTube of videos offending to Saudi Arabia by flagging them. In addition to the unfortunate misspelled name, I believe this campaign has two main problems. First, what is an offending video? What are the criteria for such thing? I mean, what is offending to you can be quite harmless to me, right? So who gets to decide which videos are offending? Second, YouTube is already heavily censored by CITC. Do we need another layer of censorship?
I’m all for free speech, so don’t get me wrong. If you feel strongly offended by a video on the website, go ahead and flag it. Knock yourself out, I’m not going to stop you. Actually, I can’t stop you. But I think that organizing a campaign for such purpose is a just a waste of time and effort. What is worse, it is enforcing yet another form of censorship and that is the last thing we need. CITC is already doing a great job at it that I find myself occasionally amazed by how dedicated they are to this job.
This dedication is shown clearly in their latest blocking spree, which included Twitter profiles like those of @Mashi97 and @abualkhair. Blocking @Mashi97 was particularly strange because it came after he tweeted about having fried eggs for breakfast, which made him think that maybe someone at CITC does not like eggs. Also, what CITC don’t seem to realize is that blocking profile pages on Twitter does not prevent the users from updating. Go figure.
Which brings me back to online campaigns: should we start one to unblock these guys? I think we should, but currently I’m busy with another campaign of mine: Saudi Unflagger. Who is in?