Saudi Arabia shut down Internet messenger application Viber on Wednesday for failing to comply with unspecified regulations, its telecom regulator said, according to the AFP news agency.
“Viber has failed to comply with the regulatory conditions… in this kingdom and was stopped from starting up today,” the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) said.
The CITC also warned that “appropriate action will be taken against other applications or services that do not comply with regulations,” without saying how rules in the ultra-conservative country were being violated.
In March, Saudi Arabia issued a warning to Skype, WhatsApp and Viber, threatening a ban if the software firms don’t provide the government with a way to monitor user communications.
An industry source said telecom operators were behind Wednesday’s move, accusing Saudi Telecommunications Co (STC), Mobily and Zain of asking the CITC to impose censorship because of the “damage” caused by free applications.
In the neighboring United Arab Emirates, most Skype applications and Viber calls are blocked, but WhatsApp messenger remains accessible, reported AFP.
In 2010, the two Gulf neighbors threatened to ban BlackBerry instant messaging and demanded that the company install local servers to censor the service.
In response to Wednesday’s ban, a Viber spokeswoman told PCMag, "We regret the decision of the Saudi authorities to block Viber. We love our millions of users in Saudi Arabia and hope to restore service in the coming days. We encourage Saudi users to follow Viber on Facebook and Twitter for updates."