This Website is Banned As Per The Lebanese Ministry of Telecommunications

Picture via @ohmyhappiness, click for full size.

Picture via @ohmyhappiness, click for full size.

Yesterday afternoon, Twitter user Raja Farah was busy researching late Lebanese politician Habib Pasha Saad when he stumbled on a page that wouldn’t open.

The notification as to why that particular website was unaccessible was a simple prompt: This website is banned as per the Lebanese ministry of Telecommunications. The above screenshot is what he got.

Using modern technology, which seems to have escaped our ministry of telecommunication, I managed to access the website in question. It turned out to be a directory of people: trying to build family trees, connect with relatives you may not know, etc. There was nothing more to it and definitely nothing less since it was pretty bland as it is. And yet, the website was banned. I tried to access it using a different ISP and the website would refuse to load even though my internet connection worked quite well.

The page Mr. Farah was trying to access had nothing striking as well. I managed to procure the following screenshots of its content. As you can see, there’s simply nothing there.

Yesterday as well, it was revealed that another website was blocked as well, pertaining to the Mansour Labaki scandal. You can check out the details regarding it here. The Mansour Labaki website also has next to no shocking content. It provides next to nothing new on the case; it doesn’t give any new information, it doesn’t give any proof as to what the man did. It is, however, not accessible for anyone whose IP address is Lebanese.

Ladies and gentlemen, it seems we have more things to worry about when it comes to censorship in Lebanon than the banning of movies, books and possibly some music. It was only recently that they removed two movies out of the Beirut Film Festival because they didn’t fit with the moral code they want to enforce on all of us. But we now have another big brother watching over our heads in order to make sure we get “proper” exposure: our ministry of telecommunications.

I remember well when that same ministry made itself  the knight in shining armor fighting for my rights as a citizen to have my data remain private from security personnel who wanted to use it to fight terrorism. But there are other rights that pertain to me, as a citizen, which seem to be trampled on left and right. What right does anyone have to grant or restrict access to any sort of information to me? Isn’t this a violation to one of my fundamental rights as well?

How many websites already exist that we can’t access because someone out there decided that we had inadequate intellect to handle their content? What criteria is followed to decide that we, as a Lebanese population using our dismal and detrimental internet services, should not be allowed to access this website and not the other? What right does the minister of telecommunication, or whoever decides these things, have in order to decide whether a website should or should not be allowed to the general population?

They tell us day in day out about how our internet and telecom services have improved recently. They brag about 4G, about prices dropping and whatnot.  We have faster internet to access less and less websites. It starts with the ones I listed here, but who knows where this will go?

We have 4G and better 3G, supposedly (the reception in my hometown would beg to differ). But bringing in 4G phones into the country, or any phone that you want, for that matter is simply going to hell and back (link) with regulations upon regulations whose only purpose is to make your life as an irrelevant citizen harder while not making a dent in the business of those who’re supposedly targeted by these rules.

This isn’t about politics. I couldn’t care less who’s the current minister of telecom, who was before him or who might come after him. As I look at this, a clear pattern unfolds in front of me: the supposed advancements in the telecom sector we are having are coming at the expense of my personal freedoms as a consumer and as a citizen. The more we’re “advancing,” the more we crave for how things were before all this “improvement.” True advancement is giving people choices. It’s giving them full access to everything they need to formulate opinions. At this rate, I’d say take back your 4G and give me those choices for that is true advancement.

My Lebanese Bloggers Reinvent The World Entry: Bionic Humans

The following is my submission to the competition supervised by the ministry of telecommunications.

The moment you wake up to the world, all information you get is acquired through your senses. You first see your mother through your eyes. You first hear her voice through your ears. You first feel her touch through your skin, smell her hair through you nose and taste the food you are given through your taste buds.

These sensory experiences help shape your brain dramatically – they alter your cognition and your interaction with the world around you in ways that you can’t even quantify.

Now imagine you lost one of the organs responsible for your senses. Imagine you lost one of your eyes due to some freak accident. Imagine you were born with a genetic condition of deficient bone conduction in your ear or very few sensory cells in your nose to smell. Imagine for a second that your interaction with the world today is lacking one major aspect and you’ll see how hard it is. You only need to close one eye while walking with a few friends in order to see how your visual field is reduced.

I have had one uncle who lost his eye as a child to a heater-related accident. My uncle has passed away now, may he rest in peace, but the loss of his eye was a life changing experience that, regardless of the psychological aspect of the matter, affected his life negatively. My best friend suffers from the same thing: he lost his eye because he was a playful little boy with a heightened sense of curiosity. My cousin has deficiency in his hearing and is helped with hearing aids that don’t give him the proper sense of hearing that you and I have but a sense that allows him to make do and lead a normal life – or as normal a life as you could lead.

Lebanon is a country of war. We have all gone through very horrible life circumstances that have left many in Lebanon impaired. Some have had lasting damage to their spinal cord, leaving them crippled. Others have had their limbs completely amputated. The image is one that’s very hard to imagine.

The above premise leads me to the following:

My idea:

What if I could give my best friend an eye that allows him to see the world the way I see it, that allows him to see people who walk on the side of his non-functional eye? What if I could give my cousin a cochlea that not only gets him to hear but gives him a perfect sense of hearing? What if we can give all the war injured people prosthetic limbs that do not only serve minimal function but can emulate the function of the limb they lost?

Let’s take it a step further: what if we can extend the average life span, better life circumstances and improve the human condition?

As a medical student, I am faced daily with countless diseases, even those with a genetic basis, whose only “purpose” is to lead to this organ failing or that. My job is to cut this path of destruction at a point which leaves the organ in question salvageable enough for me to give the patient a better quality of life. But what if I’m too late? And what if I can’t find a transplant organ in time?

As things stand today, the only hope for my figurative patient is to die.

All of these terminally-ill patients, impaired, blind & amputated people may have hope if we broaden our approach to our own body by employing the technological advances we have reached these days and create organs that combine this nano-technology that’s being pioneered around the world with the medical expertise that is available plenty.

By creating a bionic eye, which combines medicine and technology which is helping shape medicine daily, someone who is blind might regain his sight. By integrating some minimal AI function on a prosthetic limb, an amputee might regain normal function in that limb. By manufacturing a heart, the countless people around the Earth who suffer from cardiac conditions could find a way to become better.

The list goes on. Imagine the possibilities if whichever organ comes to your mind is no longer a piece of fiction but a certainty that requires tinkering an approach and incorporating different disciplines together. The paths of the sciences are not as divided as people make them out to be. They are intertwined in more ways than they differ.

The lifespan of these bionic organs would also be superior to the span of normal organs. Their availability means that any case of dysfunction can be fixed by pinpointing the circuit that’s leading to the shortage.

What could we as Lebanese do? We have the minds and the medical expertise that could help shape this. And we have a lot of Lebanese youth whose pride and joy is technology – not just those who admire their smartphones but those who can actually build a smartphone or repair one in a matter of minutes. What those people need and currently lack is resources.

You might say that such a plan is perhaps too far-fetched or too ambitious given where we are today. And perhaps it is. But going beyond the limitation of this body that we have might prove to be a key-point in bettering our life in so many other ways. These bionic organs can help us understand what we don’t currently understand about current bodily functions, notably neural, which we are currently ignorant about. The purpose of these organs might even surpass their imminent use and lead to a different approach to life in which people begin to tackle the problems that everyone faces in a more meaningful way, be it from pollution, to energy.

My opinion is that this is the next frontier that medicine will be embarking on. If we, as Lebanese of the newer generation, embark on it, we might be able to catch up to the entire world in so many ways. Perhaps it’s worth a shot.

I believe bionic senses and organs is an idea that needs to be put out there – hopefully someone, somewhere finds it not insane enough to act out on it.

Reinvent the world by reinventing its inherent weakness. Fix people so they can fix the world.