Dubai: Controversial website Orkut.com has been blocked in the UAE after Gulf News highlighted the concerns of readers that it contains sexually explicit material.
Etisalat banned the site yesterday on the orders of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA).
As reported in Gulf News in recent days, some wanted Orkut banned because they feared people were using the site to find sexual partners.
"After the TRA was contacted by Gulf News, they went into this site and found out that it should be blocked," an official TRA spokesman told Gulf News.
"Immediately they issued a formal letter to the Internet Service Providers in the UAE to block this site." The letter was sent to Etisalat, the UAE's main Internet Service Provider, by the TRA's Director of Technical Affairs, Mohammad Geyath.
Orkut had been blocked before in the UAE, and was later unblocked after many users complained. The TRA spokesman said the TRA had never ordered that unblocking.
Orkut users each have their own profile and can choose to become a member of particular online communities. While some such communities are innocuous, being related to particular hobbies or schools, there are sex communities, including one called "Dubai Sex" that has more than 2,000 members.
A spokesperson for Google, the site's owner said: "We're disappointed that Orkut is being blocked because it's a great way for people to meet, socialise and share interests. We will be reaching out to the authorities to try to resolve this."
'Ban required to protect social norms'
I really feel that it is a genuine complaint that the people have raised against Orkut.com. It is really a great thing that Gulf News has considered the complaint of the people ... It is a serious issue that such websites can corrupt the minds of youth and students.
I have been using Orkut for a couple of months and I have not noticed or come through any obscene things. Through Orkut I have found my very old school friends, my cousins in US who I lost touch with for a long period. I never thought I would ever be in touch with them again.
- Surma Sarkar, Abu Dhabi
I have been using Orkut.com for the past seven to eight months now, and sometimes I wondered if Etisalat could allow Orkut.com, then why were websites such as Friendster.com and hi5.com blocked?
- Saima Dhani, Umm Al Quwain
I met my primary classmates from Orkut.com, but the ban is required as it harms social norms.
- Sree Vidya J., UAE
I think Orkut was one of the few sites, which helps you get in touch with all your long lost friends. I think Orkut.com was one of the best social networking websites currently available and there is no justification for banning it!
- Mohammad Ahsan Khan, Dubai
Etisalat has banned Orkut.com again, and this seems unfair when in the case of Youtube.com, it has only banned the pages of the website that exhibit offensive content.
- Sandeep A., Dubai