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Viber messaging service banned in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is making an example of messaging service Viber, banning the mobile and web application months after threatening to prohibit services that don't allow for government monitoring.

"We regret the decision of the Saudi authorities to block Viber," a Viber spokeswoman said. "We love our millions of users in Saudi Arabia and hope to restore service in the coming days. We encourage Saudi users to follow Viber on Facebook and Twitter for updates."

The blockade was first reported by Reuters, which said regulators in the region blocked Viber because it was difficult to monitor and took revenue away from large telecom firms.

"The Viber application has been suspended," the country's Communications and Information Technology Commission told Reuters. "And the (regulator) affirms it will take appropriate action against any other applications or services if they fail to comply with regulatory requirements and results in force in the kingdom."

In March, officials in Saudi Arabia threatened to ban messaging services like Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber unless those companies allowed for government monitoring. Skype and Whatsapp are reportedly still accessible in the region. Saudi Arabian officials had a similar battle with BlackBerry back in 2010 over BlackBerry Messenger.

Viber provides a method for users to make free phone calls, send instant messages, and share files via mobile and desktop devices, and boasts more than 200 million users across various platforms and around the world.

As Reuters pointed out, the CITC did not officially explain which regulatory requirements and rules were breached by Viber, but instead seems to be pushing for more control over the Web as a whole. Attempts to use Viber on two different smartphones, and an effort to download the app onto a computer, all failed to work, the news site said.

Viber was gaining steam this spring when it was discovered that the messaging service allowed hackers to gain full access to Android phones running the app. The company bounced back the next month, though, releasing a desktop app. The service currently runs on Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Windows and Mac desktops.