Researchers from Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society have released a report concluding that the Saudi Arabian government maintains an active interesting in filtering non-sexually explicit Web content.

“This is part of a larger project to start mapping out the boundaries of an increasingly fragmented Internet, whether the lines are drawn by governments, companies, libraries, schools, or parents,” said Harvard Law School Professor Jonathan Zittrain, faculty co-director of the Berkman Center.

Zittrain and co-author Benjamin Edelman, an incoming J.D. student, attempted to access more than 60,000 Web pages through a Saudi Arabian proxy server and were block on 2,038 pages. The researchers concluded that the Saudi government actively filters non-sexually explicit Web content for users within the Kingdom; that substantial amounts of non-sexually explicit Web content is in fact effectively inaccessible to most Saudi Arabians; and that much of this content consists of sites that are popular elsewhere in the world.

“A puzzle here is getting a rigorous sense of how widespread Saudi filtering really is,” said Edelman. “We tested more than 60,000 web pages and found less than three percent to be blocked–perhaps not so much. But if I were in Riyadh and found I couldn’t access Geocities, translators, and the Onion, I’d surely be unhappy.”

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School is a research program founded in 1997 to explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its development. Today, the Berkman Center serves as the focal point for an international network of teaching and research faculty, students, cyberlaw practitioners, entrepreneurs and technologists engaged in innovative research projects designed to push the boundaries of current thought on law and the Internet.

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