Oman is an Arab country located in Southwest Asia and on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Like most Persian Golf countries Oman heavily censors and filters Internet access.
However, unlike most of the countries with heavy Internet censorship, Oman mainly restricts Internet access because of religious and cultural beliefs.
Over the past three decades, Oman’s telecom sector has been dominated by the state-controlled Oman Telecommunications Company (Omantel) , which started to provide Internet services in 1997. It is the official telecom provider, supplying the country with both telephone services and Internet access.
Internet use in Oman is regulated by Omantel’s Terms & Conditions, which states that users should “not carry out any unlawful activities which contradict the social, religious, political, cultural or economical values of the Sultanate of Oman or could cause harm to any third party”. The violation of this rule lead to the cancellation of the subscription and/or in the proceedings of Criminal or Civil lawsuits against the Customer.
To use the Internet, individuals, companies and institutions in Oman must sign an agreement not to publish anything that destabilizes the state, that insults or criticizes the head of state or the royal family, that creates hatred toward the government or any ethnicity or religion, that promotes religious extremism, pornography, pedophilia or violence and subjects that insult other states. There is no acceptance of promoting or prescribing drugs via Internet neither.
So to avoid such sensitive cases, according to the US State Department Human Rights Report, the government proceeds to a filtering regime, monitoring websites and private communications (mobile phones, e-mail, and Internet chat room exchanges ) by tracking them through their ISP servers.
Omantel also imposes physical restrictions on public Internet access to control the community so people do not access or publish objectionable or unlawful material, even in Internet cafés. Companies willing to open an Internet cafe must present a floor plan for the proposed site which must be created so that the computer screens are visible to the supervisor.
The filtering regime extensively targets websites with pornographic material. Forums that facilitate the exchange of Arabic-language explicit content have been blocked, web sites containing provocative clothes were blocked, as well as gay and lesbian websites and some dating services — probably because they contained sexually explicit images.
Even the use of some VoIP services has been officially banned in Oman. Skype is popular VoIP service found to be blocked in Oman. Some video sharing Web site like metacafe.com has been blocked too, probably because they may include nudity.