Saudi Arabia bans Line, making out-of-country calls via the internet nearly impossible

Published September 6th, 2016 - 12:24 GMT
Smartphone applications like Vyber, Whatsapp, and Whatsapp Messenger have all been banned previously in Saudi. (Pixabay)
Smartphone applications like Vyber, Whatsapp, and Whatsapp Messenger have all been banned previously in Saudi. (Pixabay)

Other the weekend, the government of Saudi Arabia blocked the popular messaging and voice calling application Line. In doing so, the Kingdom prevented users of the app from making calls over the internet to anywhere inside or outside the country’s borders using either their cellphone’s data or a WiFi connection. Such calls offer a much cheaper and more efficient method for voice calls, compared with the expensive international calling plans provided by telecom companies in the Middle East.

Line joins a long list of other applications that use to internet to make calls and messages like Whatsapp, Viber, Snapchat, and Facebook Messenger that have been blocked in recent months by the Saudi government’s strict and sometimes confusing censors. 

The move has agitated a great deal of social media users in Saudi, who have taken to Twitter with the hashtags “#حجب_مكالمات_اللاين” (#Line_Calls_Blocked) and “#نطالب_بتحسين_النت_في_السعوديه” (#We_Demand_Improvements_to_the_Internet_in_Saudi).

“It looks like the last stand for social media. Today Snapchat and Line, tomorrow Twitter and Instagram. If anyone is selling an old Nokia get it ready for me.”

“Why this? There’s people on scholarship abroad or who can’t speak with their relatives except for using Line. Why’d they ban it like this?”

It has been speculated that the pressure to ban apps that provide free calls over the internet comes from Saudi telecommunications companies, concerned about the loss of revenue when subscribers use such services.

Considering the high number of international workers living in Saudi Arabia, as well as the large number of Saudis studying, working, and living abroad - the most recent block is the latest hinderance in a series of moves that isolate the Kingdom electronically.

JC

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