Saudi Arabia to unblock internet calling apps


Saudi Arabia will lift its ban on internet calling applications today, easing restrictions online as the conservative kingdom faces new criticism over censorship. Voice and video calling apps such as WhatsApp and Skype will be widely available to users. The move is aimed at improving business confidence as the kingdom transitions into a post-oil era, access to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) will reduce operational costs and spur digital entrepreneurship.It will also incentivise the growth of internet-based businesses, especially in the media and entertainment industries. The announcement comes a day after Al Jazeera lashed out at Snapchat for blocking the Qatari broadcaster from its app in Saudi Arabia at the request of Saudi authorities. Saudi Arabia has long accused Al Jazeera of acting as a mouthpiece for extremist groups. Saudi Arabia, with its bulging youth population, is among the world’s top per capita users of social media. The internet represents a limited space for freedom of expression in a country with strict social codes. More than half of Saudi Arabia’s citizens are under 25, who spend much of their time on social media platforms.