We knew it would happen. After months of anticipation, Jordanian authorities have initiated a ban on news sites that have not yet registered and been licensed by the Press and Publications Department, effectively blocking more than 300 news websites. According to local media organization 7iber (which means “ink” in Arabic):
The mandatory registration was enacted as part of amendments made to the Press and Publications Law back in September 2012, which spurred controversy due to its various articles that have been deemed as a government-led effort to restrict free speech online. The amendments included articles that would hold online news sites accountable for the comments left by their readers, prohibiting them from publishing comments that are deemed “irrelevant” or “unrelated” to the article – a restriction that caused several prominent sites to turn off their comments sections. Online news sites would also be required to archive all comments left on their servers for at least six months.
Last year, 7iber was one of many websites to protest against the amendment to the Press and Publications law and other efforts to censor the Internet by participating in a SOPA-style blackout dubbed #blackoutJO.
The implementation of the ban takes place just after Jordan’s hosting of both the International Press Institute World Congress and the World Economic Forum, leading some to suspect authorities waited, assuming less global scrutiny. But as we wrote last week, local activists aren’t about to let this go without a fight.
EFF will be watching closely and working with our friends in Jordan to fight back, but in the meantime, Jordanians should be aware of their options for bypassing censorship. Authorities are using DNS blocking, which can be easily circumvented by switching to either Google’s DNS servers or by using a service like OpenDNS.