Hackers aid clampdown on porn in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's religious police – the Mutaween – have hired "ethical hackers" to disable social media accounts that distribute online pornography.

Some 9,000 Twitter accounts that were being used to distribute pornography have been disabled (over an unspecified period) following the clampdown according to spokesman from the Kingdom's Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia) speaking to news portal Emirates 24/7. The hackers also enabled police to access the personal details of those who owned the accounts, leading to their arrest. There are five million Twitter users and 7.8 million Facebook users in Saudi Arabia, with new accounts being created as soon as old ones are banned.

Pornography is banned in Saudi Arabia and those found guilty of distributing it in the country face up to five years in jail, or a fine of up to three million Saudi Riyals (£530,000).

Saudi Authorities were reported to have blocked more than 400,000 websites in 2013. But a Google study  put Saudi Arabia at number seven among countries with the most sex-related searches (Pakistan coming in at Number one). These statistics have been rejected by the country's  Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC). In another earlier study, the flash memory of mobile phones taken from teenagers in the country showed 69.7 percent of 1,470 files saved in them were pornographic according to the report author Professor Abdullah al-Rasheed.

The Saudi Ministry of the Interior announced plans to recruit ethical hackers in May 2014 when some government websites were breached and defaced.

However, its not just the government that uses hackers. According to local newspaper Arab News, a few years ago every computer centre in Riyadh was said to have had hackers on hand who offer access to pornographic material or people's private email accounts. They charge between US$ 30 to US$ 70 a time to provide access to restricted websites, circumventing official measures to restrict what sites are visited.

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