Internet Filtering in Yemen. Yet Another Western Filtering Story

We (the OpenNet Initiative) have just released our new report on Internet filtering in Yemen.

Two things to note about this report. First, the Yemen report is the first that we are releasing in simultaneous English and Arabic translations. It is important to us to have an impact among the constituencies that matter most to the topics we are investigating, so look for future reports to have similar simultaneous translations.

The second issue concerns the findings of the report itself. Our investigations confirmed that Yemen is using a western filtering product, Websense, to filter access to information on the Internet. Although Yemen filters mostly pornography, the Yemen case offers yet another troubling example of a commercial company aiding a regime that violates human rights (in this case freedom of speech and access to information). Below is my quotation from the press release:

As a developing Middle East country on the frontline of the “War on Terror,” Yemen faces numerous difficult and unique security and policy challenges. The pressures (both domestic and international) to compromise human rights and political liberties in favor of order and security are enormous and likely difficult to resist. In light of these pressures, it is remarkable that Yemen does not presently extensively filter political opposition, dissident, and human rights websites, focusing its attention primarily on pornographic and other sexual-related material. However, the largely secretive nature of its filtering regime, combined with the use of yet another US commercial filtering product, raises serious questions about accountability and respect for basic human rights for both Yemen itself and the company providing the filtering technology, Websense.