Saudi Arabia may block WhatsApp within weeks

Popular mobile chat app warned of possible blockage after voice and messaging app Viber was blocked last week.

Saudi Arabia plans to block WhatsApp in coming weeks if the makers of the mobile chat app don't comply with local regulations.

The warning comes after the Communications and Information Technology Commission blocked popular voice and messaging app Viber last week.

"We have been communicating with WhatsApp and other similar communication platforms to get them to cooperate and comply with the Saudi telecom providers, however nothing has come of this communication yet," Abdullah Al-Darrab, governor of the CITC, told English language Arab News.

One of the regulations stipulates that WhatsApp establish a local server that allows officials to monitor user activity, Al-Darrab told the news agency.

"We gave them a week to comply and have been communicating with them since March to no avail," he said. "Therefore, this has left us with no choice but to block these services, beginning with Viber."

CNET has contacted WhatsApp for comment and will update this report when we learn more.

The Saudi Arabian government has cracked down on messaging apps before, temporarily banning BlackBerry messenger services after BlackBerry reportedly didn't adhere to the country's regulatory requirements. The Saudi government complained at the time that the encrypted security used in the BlackBerry network prevented the government from monitoring communications channels , which it said could be used to threaten national security.

In March, Saudi officials threatened to block popular Internet chat, call, and messaging services Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber if they did not comply with local regulations.

 

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