Saudi Arabia is threatening to block several popular Internet chat, call, and messaging services if they don’t get in line with the country’s regulatory requirements.
The apps in question include Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber, according to the country’s official news agency SPA.
Apparently, the Saudi Arabian Communications and Information Technology Commission issued a statement that said, “The Commission emphasizes that it will take appropriate action regarding these applications and services in the event of failure to meet those conditions.”
It’s unclear exactly what rules the apps were breaking, but local media reports from earlier in the week said that the government wanted to be able to monitor the apps, according to CNN.
This may have to do with recent political protests that were reportedly partially organized through WhatsApp, according to CNN. Demonstrations are against the law and completely banned in Saudi Arabia.
“I’m not angry, just a little surprised that the Saudi government hasn’t advanced beyond this type of tactic,” prominent Saudi blogger Eman Al-Nafjan told CNN. “I thought that they were better able to do this without resorting to have to threaten banning applications.”
This isn’t the first time that the Saudi Arabian government has cracked down on messaging apps. In 2010, the country temporarily banned BlackBerry messenger services after Research In Motion reportedly didn’t adhere to the country’s regulatory requirements.
Similar to the current threats against Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber, the Saudi government complained at the time that the encrypted security used in the BlackBerry network prevented the government from monitoring communications channels, which it said could be used to threaten national security.
Despite the government threats to ban the apps, Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber have not yet been shuttered, according to local news source Al Arabiya.