Unfortunately for visitors to Saudi Arabia, the country is one that has shut down the convenient communications app.

Messenger Censorship in the Middle East

The current Saudi ban on Skype is not that much of a surprise if you’ve been following the way the Middle East wields it censorship powers. Many Middle Eastern governments fear that instant messaging and social media are dangerous avenues for anti-government rallies and movements. Plotters in Turkey used WhatsApp to stage their coup in 2016, and the government has banned that app. Censorship in Saudi Arabia is fairly easy to maintain because the leading telecom company, Saudi Telecom Company (STC), is 70% owned by the state government. Similar situations occur in Qatar and UAE. Saudi Arabia has it written into law that it will ban any company that allows free telecommunication as it devalues the economic value and profit-making ability of traditional telecommunications companies in the country. This is an even bigger struggle in Qatar, where just 12% of the population is native, with most being immigrants from places like India and the Philippines. Many rely on services like Skype, LIne, Telegram, and Snapchat to maintain communications with family in their native country. Businesses face the same trouble in Saudi Arabia. Many foreign oil companies have operations in Saudi, but cannot use Skype to communicate with other offices around the globe. In September 2017, Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince Mohammed bin Salman lifted a four-year ban on Internet phone calls, also known as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Just 10 days later, the Saudi government clarified the order, announcing that using Skype and other online apps was legal, but that the government would be both monitoring and censoring them. A spokesman for the Arabic telecoms regulator said these practices would protect the personal information of users and block content that violates Saudi law.

Safely Accessing Skype While in Saudi Arabia

While the ability to use Skype was a step in the right direction, it goes without saying that plenty of Saudi Arabian citizens and those working there from other countries were less than pleased with the clarifications concerning monitoring and censorship. Plenty are concerned that the government will be eavesdropping on what they say to friends and family, and foreign businesses obviously want no part of Saudi government officials listening in on their corporate doings. Fortunately for visitors of Saudi Arabia who still need to keep in touch with people at home — for work or pleasure — there is a way to safely access your Skype account during your travels. The solution is to use a virtual private network (VPN) to access the Internet as if one’s computer was located in another country — such as in your home country where Skype is available, for example. Here’s how it works. A VPN uses encryption software to generate a shielded “tunnel” between your Internet-capable device and a remote server located in a different country. While a Saudi ISP or third party could tell that the user was accessing the Internet when the VPN is active, said bodies could not see what requests are being sent. When the requests reach the remote server, they are decrypted, given an IP address for that country, and sent on to the Internet. The data you are requesting from the Internet is encrypted by the remote server and sent back to your device, where it is then decrypted again. VPNs are a grade up from proxy servers, which are capable of sending information back and forth through a remote server, but do not have the encryption/decryption capabilities. VPNs come in many forms and at varying price levels, from free all the way up to hundreds of dollars per year.A thorough review of different VPN providers in coordination with what your greatest needs are will help you pick the correct VPN for you. Considering the real-time dynamics that Skype exists under, speed has to be consideration with employing a VPN. ExpressVPN is routinely declared as the fastest among the name VPN companies. It has servers in 94 countries and tremendous user support, led by a 24/7 live chat. Privacy is another big plus with VPNs, and Private VPN is one of the best thanks to its 2,048-bit encryption and very strict policy of not keeping logs. For the best of both worlds, take a good long look at NordVPN, which has more than 4,400 servers in more than 60 countries and AES 256-bit encryptions.


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