To curb cybercrime and terrorism, the United Arab Emirates has cracked down on internet content and freedom of expression online. Citizens, online activists, and journalists have all been prosecuted for criticizing the state on the internet. Here is a list of banned websites, along with a checklist for using a VPN in the UAE.
With political parties banned, judicial authority rests with seven hereditary rulers who follow Sharia law (laws based on Islamic precepts). These laws prohibit things like pre-marital sex, alcohol, and gambling, which is why online content promoting these behaviors are banned.
For this reason, the censorship policy concentrates on terrorist or criminal activity, pornography, dating, gambling, certain VoIP services like Skype, and other culturally or religiously offensive internet content. This is supposedly to protect public morality, public order, and national security.
According to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the UAE, 1,600 websites were banned in the UAE in 2019, 542 of which were blocked for obscene content. And a quarter of those were blocked for fraud.
To protect young people from “vulgar” and “unethical” websites, 500 undisclosed search terms were banned this week, based on decisions between the Dubai Police and the country’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA).
Websites using the HTTP rather than HTTPS (encrypted) protocol may also be banned. For example, Wikipedia was banned until it defaulted to HTTPS. This is mainly to anticipate sites that could be fraudulent and unsafe since they lack encryption.
When a website appears blocked, it's because your ISP has determined your location by scanning your IP address. So, if you’re in Dubai, your device will automatically be assigned a Dubai IP address when you go online.
But there is a way to hide your IP address and location and access all your usual content legally – by using a VPN in the UAE.
The NordVPN app hides your IP address, which means that the ISP won’t be able to see what country you’re in. So, you could be in Abu Dhabi operating with a UK IP address, or in Dubai operating with a US IP address. This means, if you use a VPN in Dubai or any other part of the world, local geo-blocks won’t apply to you, and you’ll be free to access your usual websites.
Having or using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service in the United Arab Emirates is not illegal. It is illegal, however, for VPN users to access online services and websites that have been censored by the UAE government.
As Article 9 of the Federal Decree-Law No. 5/2012 on Combating Cyber Crimes states, whoever uses a fraudulent computer network protocol address by using a false address or a third-party address by any other means for the purpose of committing a crime or preventing its discovery shall be punished.
The article warrants imprisonment and a fine of no less than 500,000 AED and not exceeding 2,000,000 AED.
NordVPN is an online security app. It keeps you private and secure online by encrypting your traffic and hiding your IP address along with your location. To switch your location, all you need to do is connect to any country of your choice from the in-app menu. There are 59 countries to choose from and over 5,000 servers. You can also take advantage of NordVPN Threat Protection, which protects your device from malware, and blocks malicious websites.