I'm naked under this burka...
June 22, 2005 7:33 AM   Subscribe

They hate Flickr for it's Freedom. An ISP (and government controlled monopoly) in the United Arab Emirates has decided to ban access to Flickr for it's citizens, apparently due to the complaints of a couple of UAE expats in the UK and Canada. Of course, said blockage won't apply to them. Most interestingly, they blame the rest of the world's non-flesh-fearing photographers as opposed to their ISP (and by proxy their own oppressive government.) Now Flickr joins Skype, AtomFilms, Friendster, AOL, and anything from Israels top-level domain, as outlawed content and services in the UAE (related study here). Well, if they don't care, why should we? Via linkfilter.
posted by rzklkng (28 comments total)
People are always quick to point out that Dubai (and the UAE) is very different from extremely socially restrictive Saudi Arabia, but I wonder if that statement will hold true for much longer.
posted by clevershark at 7:42 AM on June 22, 2005

if they don't care, why should we?

lather, rinse, repeat.
posted by quonsar at 7:43 AM on June 22, 2005

Not like anyting like that could ever happen hear, quonsar, not with our free markets of information and all.
posted by rzklkng at 7:51 AM on June 22, 2005

I don't care. So, what's the point of this?
posted by mischief at 7:51 AM on June 22, 2005

OK. But what are REALLY the most popular Flickr tags?
posted by spock at 8:02 AM on June 22, 2005

I'm fairly good friends with a network administrator at a University in the UAE. Every time I meet him at a conference, he enlightens me with stories about the past 7 years he's spent in the UAE.

My favorite observation of his was how the first-year University students behave when they arrive on campus. The vast majority of them attended primary and secondary schools that were very conservative and religious, and segregated. The often silly, hormonally-challenged, and angst-ridden experiences of teenagers in Western culture, for us occurring at age 13-17, does not occur for many UAE (and one can assume many fundamentalist Islamic cultures) teenagers until they are given a little bit of freedom at age 17-18 when they attend University. So much of the note-passing and giddyness and, well, childish aspects of adolescence are for many UAE students experience their first year or two of University.

I know I'm painting with a broad brush, and even that this is a secondhand account. But I find it interesting, regardless.

My friend who's been living in the UAE for 7 years recently told me he's looking for work in the USA. Why? Because his daughter is about to start school and he doesn't want to go through the fundamentalist Islamic school system in the UAE.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 8:03 AM on June 22, 2005

It's "its".

/ grammar nazi...
/ ...secretly knows it won't do any good...
posted by LordSludge at 8:04 AM on June 22, 2005

And America is legislating its porn industy to death. All over the world, the fundies are winning.
posted by fungible at 8:12 AM on June 22, 2005

What's weird about this is that folks from the UAE are one of the biggest user groups in Flickr. You can see it here, the top-right cluster. It's a significant cultural phenomenon, both for Flickr and the UAE. I wonder how long it'll take for UAE citizens to recover access?
posted by Nelson at 8:48 AM on June 22, 2005

Should be reasonably easy, I think everyone goes through a proxy. The shame is that there are some really talented photographers, but their culture is so strict that they believe the very availability of images of naked flesh could make heads asplode.
posted by rzklkng at 8:50 AM on June 22, 2005

ahhhh, the sight of a well-turned ankle. mmmmm, doesn't get any better than that.
posted by beelzbubba at 9:14 AM on June 22, 2005

What's weird about this is that folks from the UAE are one of the biggest user groups in Flickr.

This is why I'm disappointed. It was cool that they had the outlet for personal expression, but, on a selfish note, I am a little sad about missing a window into another world.
posted by whatnot at 9:24 AM on June 22, 2005

How are these people finding nudity so easily? I have 150 friends or something and dip into the everyone pool once in a while, and seeing anything showing skin is rare.

I know it's there, but you really have to go out of your way to find it (via tag searches, etc).

I don't doubt that there is real porn on flickr, but I'd say it's so far off the beaten path that it's not an issue for most users.
posted by mathowie at 10:09 AM on June 22, 2005

On a completely different topic, the UAE users seem to love adding photos to 30 groups, don't they? Every UAE photo I see looks like the owner spammed it to every group they are a part of.
posted by mathowie at 10:10 AM on June 22, 2005

No real pron, Matt, I'd say it's "artsy". Try the Groups.
posted by rzklkng at 10:16 AM on June 22, 2005

How are these people finding nudity so easily? I have 150 friends or something and dip into the everyone pool once in a while, and seeing anything showing skin is rare.

This is a long, complex topic but I dont have time to write much right now. All sorts of issues are mixed up, but one that emerged in the superhuge thread linked to as 'UAE expats' is that UAE residents and expats were themselves posting nude images and raising the ire of other UAE'ers. These images were easy to find because the UAE "cluster" in Flickr is tightly interlinked. Of course since the UAE can't control Flickr, it can only ban it.
posted by vacapinta at 10:30 AM on June 22, 2005

Ah, well vacapinta, that makes more sense. It's natural behavior anyone could have predicted though. You give someone new tools to express themselves and it's only a matter of time before they push the boundaries. I bet it's a matter of hours between any teen boy getting his first cameraphone and him taking a shot of his manhood for shits and giggles.
posted by mathowie at 10:37 AM on June 22, 2005

Give this one a try, Mathowie. And check the "see also" for more. There are some pretty incredibly erotic shots but nothing I'd call porn.

My new personal favorite is Kitten.
posted by fenriq at 10:39 AM on June 22, 2005

They hate Flickr for it's Freedom

I know, they're constantly on MetaFlickr, winging about the "appropriateness" of this photo or that. Best of Pictures, indeed.
posted by dreamsign at 10:42 AM on June 22, 2005

hm. many of Kitten's contacts are UAE males. interesting, fenriq.

can anyone translate this?
posted by whatnot at 10:51 AM on June 22, 2005

Most interestingly, they blame the rest of the world's non-flesh-fearing photographers as opposed to their ISP (and by proxy their own oppressive government.)

Well, thats one conclusion you can draw. Many of the UAE'ers were intelligent, articulate and well aware of where their culture stands. They knew that, if nothing changed, their govt/isp would block Flickr which is something they did not want to lose.

Other suggestions were made in that long thread, including creating more of a "wall" between the UAE users and others, finding new ways to make sure users (again, especially UAE users) who posted nudity could be dealt with quickly.

In a sense, they were panicked. They were looking for creative solutions to the problem and not necessarily "blaming" anybody (not even their government, which I suppose is a good point to expand upon: They seemed to feel their government was just reasonably protecting them)
posted by vacapinta at 11:05 AM on June 22, 2005

Why don't they create their own (culturally correct) Flickr? If they're not down with the lax standards of the decadent West, they can go do their own thing.

As an aside, Burquahs make for excellent photographic framing elements. Balance, rule of thirds, and you're on your way.
posted by dsquid at 12:33 PM on June 22, 2005

vacapinta, your defense of this situation speaks to larger issues of community and isolation. I would be interested to see where their "crusade" against nudity was intended to "save" Flickr from government censorship. My read of the situation is that the bannage was due to some action on the part of the offended. What the UAEers don't seem to realize is that they joined a larger society, one where the viewing of the naked form is not moraly unacceptable. It is they who should adjust, or remove isolate themselves from the larger community, not asking their government to do it for them, lest they lose all self control. I guess their self isolation mirrors the way that some islamicists seek to isolate themselves from other cultures and beliefs.
posted by rzklkng at 1:07 PM on June 22, 2005

I have a friend who has been uploading a lot of pictures into her new Flickr acccount. She sometimes shows cleavage.

She has no contacts yet she has been getting a fair number of views, 30+ on some pics. Presumably because they appear in the public photo stream.

She has also received comments. I from a horndog, and the rest from UAE and pakistan including a female.

posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 1:51 PM on June 22, 2005

Some folks might have missed it, but the expressed goal of the Islamists we are fighting is to integrate all of us into THEIR way of doing things. Bring on the Burquahs, baby.
posted by dsquid at 2:28 PM on June 22, 2005

I'm fighting the Islamists now? I must have missed that memo.
posted by chunking express at 6:16 AM on June 23, 2005

We = my friends and I. You weren't invited.
posted by dsquid at 12:12 PM on June 23, 2005

God! this non ending issue of flickr and nudity. I am from UAE and things do look slightly different from here than they do from the outside.

The few weeks old debate about flickr and nudity is no secret. We are born and raised in a background that restricts, rightly i think, all forms of nudity in public. Islam regulated the whole who-can-see-who's-flesh problem and the question is settle in the minds of most of us.

However, many of us, myself included, understand that this is not the case with the rest of the world and we can not impose our cultural and religious believes on everyone out there. What is right and wrong for us is not quite the same to what is right and wrong for others - and we understand and accept that. Thus, we asked flickr adminstration to implement an OPTIONAL nudity filter that we can use (and that can also be used when children view the website to restrict 18+ material) Kindly flikcr adminstration pointed out that this is being implemented.

However, three things were dissappointing:
1- few people on our side were not satisfied with the middle-solution and wanted flickr to either ban nudity all together, or get banned itself.
2- few people on the other side approached the problem in a confrontational manner with: If you dont like what you see, leave flickr, close your browser, shut down your computer, and go to sleep - and do not try to express what you think, or voice a concern or a complaint or make us understand what you want. Just build your own flickr on stand-alone filters on top of it.
3- people started writting to Etisalat, our ISP, and lobbying for a blanket ban which came into effect few days ago - instead of finding practical and real solution to the problem that brings better understanding between our worlds.

More background events leading to this are detailed on this link:
posted by e3ashig at 12:08 AM on June 25, 2005

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