They're at it again. According to Emirates Business 24x7, Internet access is to be liberalised.
Before you get all excited, it's important to understand what the word liberalised means. You probably thought, like many people, it meant something like 'to make or to become more favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs'.
Progress, in this case, means extending the site blocking policy that Etisalat currently supports to its competitor Du and formalising the criteria to be applied to what content is to be blocked. That includes 'dating websites': Emirates Business, in its incisive report on the move, quotes a spokesman for the UAE's Telecom Regulatory Authority, the TRA, as saying that sections of social networking websites such as Facebook that encouraged dating would be banned but that residents would have access to the website excluding those parts.
Let us be very clear here, perhaps clearer than we have been over our use of the word liberalisation. Social networking results in opening up channels between people of every origin, creed and colour to enjoy dialogue, to share their thoughts, creations and experiences. It's really quite important.
We're not talking about blocking commercial pornography, sexual or blasphemous content here. We're talking about stopping people, individuals, exchanging information over an open platform.
It does strike me that if you can't deal with what other people have to say, or can't stand the thought that the people close to you cannot deal with the moral challenges of unfettered thought, I'm not really sure that the answer is sticking your fingers in your ear and shouting 'Lalalalalalalala' until they go away.
But I am sure that these blocking policies have the potential to continue retarding the adoption, innovation and use of these emerging technologies in the region. Liberalisation is an inexcusable misuse of language to describe this move, both on the part of the regulator that used it and the newspaper that allowed it to pass unchallenged.