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A year in Kuwaiti jail for a tweet? Draft law threatens free speech

Kuwait is tightening control of online critics of the royal family with a new telecommunications law.
A Facebook icon is shown on a Samsung Galaxy III mobile phone in this photo illustration in Encinitas, California, January 30, 2013. Facebook Inc's advertising business grew at its fastest clip since before the company's May initial public offering, helping the company's revenue expand 40 percent to $1.585 billion. Facebook has ramped up its online advertising services in recent months, putting a greater emphasis on mobile ads and introducing capabilities that let marketers target Facebook users based on th

Kuwait has moved to regulate the use of social media as part of a continued crackdown against critics of the regime. In April, Minister of State Affairs Mohammed Mubarak al-Sabah announced plans to issue a special law concerning social media. Shortly before his announcement, parliament approved a draft of a new telecommunications law that puts a special committee in charge of “regulating the sectors of telecommunications and information technology to grant the best standards of quality and rates for consumers.”

The proposed law has already come under fire from political groups and activists who criticize it as intentionally ambiguous, granting authorities the power to block websites, monitor phone calls and terminate phone lines for "security reasons." In a public talk organized by the Kuwaiti Progressive Front, lawyer Hussain al-Abdullah said the law allows the telecommunications committee to make decisions to monitor and block without legal permission. He added that security reasons are used as a broad excuse to bypass constitutional restrictions protecting individual rights to free speech and privacy.

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