Bahrain bans Google Earth

Mahmood’s Den is reporting that Bahrain’s Ministry of Information has instructed the country’s internet exchange to block access to Google Earth servers, citing Al-Wasat News. I don’t speak Arabic, but Systran’s automated Arabic-English translation service comes to the rescue (it still needs some work, clearly:-):

Knew “the middle” that in familiarity of Bahrain for the Internet, faithful second step have fun after lewd locking the sites, decided yesterday closing of service “[GwGl] [aayrth]“, which manages from during her [mtSfHH] the Internet from watching the geographical informers and the natural maps for any area in the scientist.

No more [Gwgl] [aayrth] for Bahrainis, then, unless they avail themselves of Tor, as Mahmood points out.

I’m curious as to whether Google Maps has been blocked, or for that matter other mapping sites. Mahmood attributes the motivation to a desire to shield Bahrainis from the opulence of rich Bahrainis’ residences. For example, here is where the king’s uncle lives:

bahrain.jpg

I suspect that the measure was instituted only because looking at royal property had become a very popular pastime for the locals recently. Nevertheless, the ban is somewhat surprising — Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy, but it is among the more progressive countries in the region (though everything’s relative). (Via Global Voices)

[Update 00:03 UTC: Slashdot has it too, with a link to Google's translation, which does a better job of it.]

[Update 00:14 UTC: The ban does not seem to be having the intended effect (surprise surprise).SIlly Bahraini Girl writes:

Now someone.. anyone.. just tell me how to download images from Google Earth and I am game guys.. Tell me what you want me to zoom into and how to get the images published, and your wish is my command!