The Ministry of Information in Bahrain has never really done much of a great job; their role in the country is quite varied, dealing with the running of the Bahrain TV channels (which are still stuck in the 80's), the Bahrain radio stations (which usually feel more like amateur efforts than serious radio stations), to having a hand in everything that the has to do with the media, from magazines, newspapers, films, and the internet.
Being the Ministry of "Information", you would expect them to be knowledgeable about most things, especially those that they deal with.
Unfortunately, that isn't true.
A little over a week ago, the Ministry decided to come up with a directive for all internet providers in the country to block a number of websites (somewhere between 20-30 sites; i'm not sure of the exact number). These included a number of forums, blogs, and information websites, mainly because of their political content. Of course, even when a website is blocked, users can access it through anonymous browsing/proxy services. So oops, let's block those too. Oh and guess what, you can also enter any website address into Google Translate, and get a translated version of that page, bypassing any blocked content. So guess what? That gets blocked too.
Okay; so the Ministry want to block certain information from coming in. Last time I checked, we were living in the Information Age. Not the Industrial Age, not the Nuclear Age, not the sticks and stones age. THE INFORMATION AGE. Information will get through, whether you like it or not; if you block a website, there's a proxy. If you block a proxy, there's a million more proxies that are available. If you block every single one of those, there are services like Google Translate that will bypass the blocked sites. If you block those, there are a million other ways to get past blocked information; through blogs, through email, through new forums, through Facebook, through messages, through pure old photocopied papers, through SMS messages, through phone calls, through satellite TV channels, through gatherings in someones house, in a coffee shop,
There is no such thing as a complete block for information nowadays, and especially when it concerns the internet. Information is not a one way street, you can't block it and expect that people will give up and go to sleep. Nowadays, there is ALWAYS a way around it.
I'm really not for or against what is being blocked; I honestly couldn't care less about different peoples' political agendas. What I completely and 100% oppose is the restrictions of free speech, of which a law has recently been granted in Bahrain. And even then, this isn't what i'm here to talk about; my point is that you cant block the internet. But let's leave this on the side for now and go back to what's being blocked.
ARE YOU FRICKIN' KIDDING ME?! This is probably one of the most useful tools on the internet today, giving us access to knowledge and information from all over the World! It gives us a chance to communicate with people from other parts of the globe, do commerce with people from other countries whose language we can't speak, and opens up a multitude of opportunities.
But nooooo... MOI decides it has to be blocked because you can bypass their blocked sites with it, which tells you one thing; it doesn't really bother them how many benefits something has, as long as it sparks one negative issue for them. This means there's no real limit to what they can block. What's next, Gmail? Hotmail? Facebook? MSN Messenger?
There are still a million other ways around the blocks, which renders their whole effort useless, just makes us more mad, and brings down the levels of freedom in this country. From the actions of the past few days, it's not really far-fetched that someone from the Ministry of Interior comes across my website, sees how i've put-down their whole blocking charade, and decide that ammaro.com needs to go too. (Speaking of which, if they do block my site, my posts are distributed by email, they're on feedburner, they're on BahrainBlogs, they're on Facebook, they're everywhere. Don't worry, you can still get your regular dosage of ammaroness; your world will not end.)
Just today I got a message; it seems they decided to start blocking anything with porn in it, as well as online gambling sites. Now that's just stupid; porn is everywhere, from downloading it on peer-to-peer networks, getting it through email, as well as satellite channels which every household has nowadays. And gambling? Well you could start by stopping that BD50 win-a-car lottery thing in the airport Duty Free, because if that isn't gambling, I don't know what is.
Ministry of Information; PLEASE WAKE UP.
(PS. Just to give you a sample of how BAD a job they're doing, even with trying to block sites, check this out:
Try going to http://google.com/translate, and you'll get a blocked site notice.
Want to bypass it? Then just go to http://translate.google.com/. Apparently their Head Blocker Engineer (blockhead?) doesn't realize that there are different forms of domain name that can lead you to the same website. Duh.)