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New media

There were 13,600,000 Internet users in Saudi Arabia (47.5 percent of the population) in 2012, and 5.8 million mobile Internet users. The government has invested heavily in security systems to block access to websites it deems offensive, said to range in subject matter from religion to swimwear, but this has not been very effective, as Saudi Internet users can gain access to most sites by simply connecting through an alternate server.

Blogs

Blogging is booming in Saudi Arabia. There are said to be as many as 5,000 Saudi blogs, written by males and females, conservative and liberal, in English and Arabic.

According to a study published in 2009 by the Berkman Center for Research, the Saudi Arabia blogging community was the second largest cluster in the Middle East; it focused more on personal diaries and less on politics than other Arab bloggers. The Saudi cluster had more female bloggers and expatriates than most other clusters. The study referred to an online campaign by bloggers used to support the release of a Saudi blogger at the time, Fuad al-Farhan, who was arrested in 2007 for violating rules not related to the state security, according to a Ministry of Interior statement.

Blogs are, however, still monitored: on 9 November 2008, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) reported that poet and blogger Roshdi Algadir (Maktoobblog) was arrested by the Committee for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vices, beaten, and forced to sign an agreement never again to publish his work on the Internet, because of a poem that he posted on Ahmed al-Omran’s blog Saudi Jeans, which is one of the most influential blogs in the Gulf region.

E-crimes law

Saudi Arabia’s Communication and Information Technology Commission adopted the so-called ‘E-crimes Act’ in March 2007, officially to tackle cyber-crime. Under the legislation, which contains 16 articles, offenders can face years in prison and large fines for crimes such as online identity-theft and operating extremist websites.

The articles identify the nature of crimes and the meaning of information breeches and abuses, and identifies the penalties for each type of crime committed. The penalties depend on the nature of the e-crime. The Commission is charged with providing technical support and documenting evidence in e-crimes cases to support the legal system in detection and investigations. Article 7 states the maximum penalty as imprisonment for ten years or a fine of USD 1.3 million, combined or individually applied, for persons who commit e-crimes associated with terrorist acts or illegal entry to electronic system or network to affect economic or national security.