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Control, Halt, Delete: Gulf States Crack Down on Online Critics

The Gulf states’ heavy-handed response to online criticism was entirely predictable and shows no signs of abating.
The Facebook logo is seen in front of an escalator at the venue of a news conference announcing the opening of Facebook offices in Dubai May 30, 2012. Social networking site Facebook opens its first office in the Middle East on Wednesday, in Dubai's Internet City, according to local media.  REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Tags: SOCIETY BUSINESS) - RTR32TVE
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The Stoic philosopher Epictetus warned of the dangers of casually bad-mouthing the ruler in ancient Rome: “A soldier, dressed like a civilian, sits down by your side, and begins to speak ill of Caesar, and then you too, just as though you had received from him some guarantee of good faith in the fact he began the abuse, tell likewise everything you think, and the next thing is you are led off to prison in chains.”

History has a knack of repeating itself. The Internet and the social media it spawned initially offered safe spaces for citizens in closed societies to express their views. Yet authoritarian rulers unaccustomed to criticism were quick to monitor and infiltrate those virtual spaces and whisk critics and malcontents off to the physical confines of a jail cell.

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