On May 15, Abdul Latif Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, the most senior religious authority in Saudi Arabia, declared that Saudi citizens who use Twitter are risking damnation, according to a report from the BCC. A Saudi who tweets "has lost this world and his afterlife," he said.
As the BBC elaborates, Abdul Aziz al ash-Shaikh's comments are just latest in a concerted effort from the kingdom's authorities in attacking the U.S.-based microblogging service. While Saudi establishment leaders frequently use technology like television and radio to broadcast their religious and political messages, Twitter and other digitally-based social media sites have Saudi leaders worried about government dissidents speaking out in the religiously conservative nation. "The government cannot follow everybody's Twitter user name," Saudi protestor Abu Zaki told NPR, explaining why activists have come to favor the microblogging media. "The authorities have to be selective and, hopefully, they don't select my name."
Unlike some other social networks, Twitter allows people to maintain multiple accounts and maintain them anonymously. That protection has allowed the site to become a veritable haven for Saudi dissent, according to the New York Times. On Twitter, "even the king has come under attack."
Over the past two years, Twitter usage has skyrocketed in Saudi Arabia, company CEO Dick Costolo said. And with 70 percent of Arab Twitter users classified as "youths", according one social media report, it's no wonder Saudi authorities fear a disgruntled -- and possibly more progressive -- younger population speaking up. The desire to discourage Twitter users in Saudi Arabia is probably exacerbated by the recent history of youth-led "Arab Spring" revolutions in the Middle East.
The religious clerics comments aside, Saudi Arabia's Twitter users have far more to worry about than their immortal souls. Al Jazeera reports that Saudi government are looking into way of ending anonymity on Twitter, and have recently begun arresting human rights activists who use Twitter as their platform.
Earlier on HuffPost:
Internet use is extremely restricted with many of North Korea's 24 million people unable to get online. Some North Koreans can access an internal Intranet that connects to state media. Members of the elite, resident foreigners and visitors in certain hotels are allowed full access to the Internet.
Most Western social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are blocked in Iran, as well as political opposition and sexually explicit websites. But proxy server sites and other methods are widely used to get around the official restrictions. Iran has announced plans to create its own domestic Internet with fully monitored content, but international experts question whether such a complete break from the worldwide Net is possible. Earlier this week, Iran accounted it had developed its own YouTube-style video sharing site.
There are more than 500 million Chinese online but they contend with an extensive Internet filtering and censorship system popularly known as the "Great Fire Wall." Censors police blogs and domestic social media for content deemed pornographic or politically subversive and delete it. Many foreign websites, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the New York Times are blocked. Searches for controversial topics such as corruption scandals or jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo return error messages. Users evade controls using proxy servers.
Tight control, slow connections and high costs mean only around 5 percent of Cubans have access to the global Internet, with another 23 percent relying instead on a government intranet with very limited content. Web access is mainly via public facilities where people must first register with identification.
Gulf Arab States
Political sites deemed threats to the state are often blocked. Since the Arab Spring, authorities across the Gulf have stepped up arrests of bloggers and others for posted considered offensive to rulers or advocating political reforms.
Internet censorship is prevalent across former Soviet Central Asian republics, but the strongest restrictions have been recorded in Iran's authoritarian neighbors to the north, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Controls are strictest in Turkmenistan, where social networking sites Facebook and Twitter are out-of-bounds, as is video-sharing site YouTube and numerous news websites. Uzbekistan has taken a less extreme approach, but sites critical of the government are blocked as a matter of course. Tajikistan, which is like those countries also ruled by an unchallenged strong-man ruler, has twice this year barred access to Facebook after web-surfers used the site to post material critical of government officials.
The government restricts access to the Internet and closely monitors online communications. The U.S. State Department's latest human rights report said the Eritrean government monitored email without obtaining warrants as required by law, and that all Internet service users were required to use one of the three service providers owned directly by the government or controlled through high-ranking members of the country's sole party. But the vast majority people do not have Internet access.