Jordan's controversial internet censorship law could be bad for business
A controversial online censorship law is sitting with the Jordanian Senate, all but effectively approved, just requiring the Kings signature, which is expected. This, the king who has previously proclaimed “the sky is the limit” for the internet.
The law will require all electronic publications to be licensed, with any online publications that do not have the required documentation at risk of being closed down, without the need for a court order, which could badly effect Jordan’s reputation as the ‘Silicon Valley of the Middle East’.
In recent days there have been a range of protests against the law, including a group of journalists holding a coffin with ‘freedom of the internet’ daubed on the side. Previous protests have included an Internet black out, where sites posted a message on their home page explaining that under the proposed law, users could be deprived of the content.
Along with required websites to be registered with the Press and Publications Department, each website will have to take on the responsibility of the comments posted by users, whilst being forced to have an undertaking that forbids the publishing of comments that are ‘untruthful’, and would hold intermediaries liable for the content of users comments. If found to be in violation of these laws, websites could be fined up to 10,000 Jordanian Dinars, effectively ending many start-ups, who do not have the sufficient capital to absorb this.
This could be the death knell for a burgeoning Internet economy in the Kingdom. The tech start-up scene has gone from strength to strength in Jordan, with Amman being rated as the 10th best city in the world for tech start-ups. If this law passes, there will be real concerns over the continued viability of the industry, which currently accounts for 14 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.