16 November 2007

Censors 2, BlognDog 1

As I blogged earlier, I thought I had finally put the net censorship issue behind me for good after finding some proxy sites that allow you to get through Qtel's filters. It's been working great, and one reason I was pleased is that one of the blocked sites, TorrentSpy, is where I've been getting my "LOST" fix every week. LOST is an American sci-fi/drama televsion show that I have become terribly addicted to, and until the season ended in May, I would wake early each Thursday morning, log on to TorrentSpy, and download the latest episode, which was always reliably uploaded by a contributor named "DEATH734" who did this for nothing more than the eternal gratitude of myself and thousands of others like me around the world. The files are high quality, no commercials, and they would be there just a few hours after the show finished airing in eastern Canada, where he lives. The site was not blocked in Saudi Arabia during the several weeks I spent there in January and February (thankfully, because I would have been apoplectic if I hadn't been able to get my weekly fix), but for whatever reason, the Qataris block it.

Although LOST is not being aired again until February, I logged on to TorrentSpy today to see if I could download an episode or two of the daily show, but upon attempting to search, I was presented with a message announcing "Torrentspy Acts to Protect Privacy - Sorry, but because you are located in the USA you cannot use the search features of the Torrentspy.com website. Torrentspy's decision to stop accepting US visitors was NOT compelled by any Court but rather an uncertain legal climate in the US regarding user privacy and an apparent tension between US and European Union privacy laws." Obviously, the site's operators are concerned about the growing power of the media industry in the USA, which has been successful to some degree in forcing ISPs to reveal private information about their customers. What wasn't so obvious is why I was getting this message, but a quick visit to IP Chicken showed that because of my proxy server, which had permitted me to visit the site, it appears to sites I visit that I am located in Dallas, in the USA. Bastards.

Somewhere I remember seeing another service similar to the one I am using, if I can find it, I'll have to see if it is based in Europe or somewhere.

In my efforts to search around today and see if I could find an alternative proxy solution that would allow me to use TorrentSpy, I happened across this site maintained by Harvard Law School, which lists many of the sites blocked by the Saudis. Unsurprisingly, this list includes numerous non-Muslim religious sites (Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Scientology, and even the "Neo-Pagans"), anti-drug law sites, gay sites, human rights organisations, etc., but the list also included other sites such as anti-pornography sites (Porn-Free.org), "sex addiction" recovery (www.sexaddict.com), and the Warner Brothers Records site. But the most surprising of all was iVillage, a site for "busy women sharing solutions and advice". I had a look around the site (whose lead story today was titled "Tales of Turkey Trouble") to see what might have attracted the ire of the mutaween, but couldn't find anything that couldn't be honestly described as totally innocuous. Maybe they just don't like women going somewhere besides their husbands for advice.

Some excitement coming to Doha this weekend -- the World Powerboat Championship, which I last managed to see a couple of years ago in Oslo, is starting tomorrow, and on Sunday there will be an airshow put on by the Red Arrows, the RAF's precision flying team. And there isn't a better vantage point in the world to see both events than from the balcony outside my office on the 24th floor of West Bay Centre.

BlognDog
Doha
15 November 2007

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