clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Saudi Arabia clamps down on messaging apps with ban of Viber

New, 54 comments
Viber iPhone
Viber iPhone

Viber's popular messaging app has been banned in Saudi Arabia. The Communications and Information Technology Commission has forbid use of Viber due to unspecified violations of the kingdom's stringent regulations. More troubling, it seems Viber could only be the beginning of a much broader ban on messaging services — which often prove difficult for Saudi officials to discreetly monitor or "tap" without the direct help of developers.

In a statement posted by Reuters, the CITC said, "The Viber application has been suspended, and the (regulator) affirms it will take appropriate action against any other applications or services if they fail to comply with regulatory requirements and rules in force in the kingdom." The outright ban of Viber isn't exactly out of left field, however; at the end of March, Saudi's state-run news agency said the country was considering barring Viber along with even larger services like Skype and Whatsapp. Like today, that statement offered no specifics on exactly which regulations were being violated by the companies.

Companies face a choice: wiretap their users or risk a ban

We've reached out to Microsoft and Whatsapp for further information on their standing with the Saudi kingdom and any steps that are being taken to comply. But for now, it seems these popular apps are dealing with an ultimatum of sorts: give Saudi Arabia the access it wants, or face a swift ban. US authorities are also pushing for legislation that would fine web services for refusing to set up digital wiretaps after being served a judge order.