Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

UAE gamers voice anger as chat app blocked by Etisalat

Players across the country have taken to Twitter using #discordban to voice their concerns over the move.
Discord users say it the chat app is better than the competition as it is free and capable of supporting up to 100 people in any given chat room. Handout photo
Discord users say it the chat app is better than the competition as it is free and capable of supporting up to 100 people in any given chat room. Handout photo

ABU DHABI // Etisalat has blocked the popular voice over internet programme Discord to the frustration of thousands of video gamers.

Players across the country took to Twitter using #discordban to voice their concerns over the move.

Discord is an app that functions as voice and text chat platform for gamers to connect, independent of the games they are playing.

Users said it was better than the competition as it is free and capable of supporting up to 100 people in any given chat room.

The interruption to the service is causing some residents more than just disruption to their games, said Klaus Kajetski, co-founder of Yalla Esports and coach of a professional gaming team.

“This obviously has a huge effect on me and my team. I’ve been building for a very long time the e-sports community, in a way, and now we are really taking it seriously on a global scale and we’re doing good,” said Mr Kajetski.

“We are really making a name and we are representing the UAE.”

Users can use the text messaging features but when they try to use the voice function, their voices sound “robotic or completely choppy”.

The Finn, who started using Discord last year to help with team practices, said the app was originally geared towards gamers, but soon took a feel of its own and expanded to users with other interests.

“You started having channels dedicated to hobbies, food or anime or whatever. It kind of became a social media platform for like-minded people to connect and share their experiences,” he said.

“How Etisalat has handled this was poorly done and they are certainly not encouraging our community,” said Sheikh Mohammed Al Qassemi, a 25-year-old Emirati. “It is embarrassing me to know that when this block was applied, many users of Discord were unaware at first, and it is a big disappointment to the gaming community.”

With the popularity of e-sports growing in the region at its current rate, Etisalat needs to begin catering to its audience, he said, and as someone very involved in the online gaming scene, he is concerned at what might happen if the internet service provider ignores the community.

“The recent ban on Discord was such a surprise to me and many other users that live in the UAE. We were all scrambling around to figure out what happened and many took to Twitter to ask EtisalatCare,” he said.

In 2015, Etisalat blocked Skype in a move that caused anger among users that use the app to stay in contact with friends and family abroad. The mobile telecommunications company later reversed the decision.

“The access to Discord application is blocked as per the United Arab Emirates’ Regulatory Framework,” Etisalat said.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority’s policy states that VOIPs must be licensed to be accessible in the country and that those that are not, such as Discord, are therefore illegal and subject to being blocked.

Skype is licensed and therefore not affected by the regulations.

Discord has also served as a communication channel for artists and others into “geek” culture.

nalwasmi@thenational.ae

Updated: July 21, 2017 07:01 PM

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