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The World Cup of the web – part 1


The World Cup of the web – part 1

With the World Cup starting in Russia this Thursday, a celebration of not just football, but world culture is almost upon us, and nothing brings the world together more than the internet.

In celebration of the 32 footballing nations to be showcased on our screens over the next few weeks, here’s an interesting internet-themed fact about each of them, starting with those in Groups A to D:

Group A


Earlier this year, Russia (not known for its tolerance of the internet) banned the cloud-based messaging and VoIP app Telegram. What’s particularly remarkable about this is that the whole court case was over in under 20 minutes.

Saudi Arabia

With Thursday’s opening game being between Russia and Saudi Arabia, some observers have joked that as a curtain raiser, it’s hardly the best advert for a progressive and united world.


Indeed, Saudi Arabia is one of the most heavily censored nations on the planet, with all internet traffic run through a filter to block out anything and everything the state doesn’t like.


Egypt is well-known for building its incredible pyramids without the aid of technology, but in the technological era, the North African nation appears to be lagging behind. Research last year ranked it 146th out of 150 nations for internet speed.


In a group of slow and restricted internet, Uruguay is the ray of light. As early as 2001, it was praised for its telecommunications infrastructure, and more recently, it’s been credited with having Latin America’s fastest and cheapest web access.

Group B


Portugal has unique laws on net neutrality. While the country does adhere to EU net neutrality laws, its government still allows providers to offer different prices for packages that allow access to certain websites. However, an article by The Verge suggests that this is not really anything to fear, and leaves us wondering whether ‘net neutrality’ concerns are something of an American issue.


The Catalan independence referendum last year caused all kinds of online wrangles. A number of .cat referendum-related sites were blocked, leading some Catalonians to compare Spain to North Korea.


Fake Facebook profiles are a much publicised concern, and one of the most notorious cases occurred in Morocco in 2008, when a computer engineer set one up in the name of the king’s brother. Fouad Mourtada’s mischief earned him a fine of 10,000 dinars (around £800) and a three-year jail term, although he was eventually pardoned after only 43 days.


Iran was the first nation in the world to block Pokémon Go. Need we say anything more about its internet censorship?

Group C


France had a successful precursor to the internet called Minitel, which was available throughout the country as early as 1982 and allowed for a basic form of online shopping. The service was not retired until 2012.


For a Western nation, Australia’s internet infrastructure is a little off the pace. A study last year found its speeds to be below those of Kenya and Russia.


Peru was the last team to qualify for this year’s World Cup, beating New Zealand in a playoff. When one of the goals went in, the celebrations were so boisterous, earthquake experts in neighbouring Chile tweeted that they had actually detected seismic activity.


The internet communication tool Skype was co-founded by a Dane. Janus Friis is now reported to be a billionaire through sales of the tool to eBay and Microsoft.

Group D


The Argentine FA recently faced a Twitter backlash when it emerged that it had included a section on how to pick up ‘chicas rusas’ (Russian girls) in a document handed out to journalists.


Incredibly, every single person in Iceland is classed as an ‘internet user’~. It’s the only country in the world where this is the case.


Perhaps surprisingly, Croatia can claim to have the fastest mobile internet in Europe. The news was proudly announced by Croatian Telecom in November last year.


In the Western world, arguably the main association between Nigeria and the web is the Nigerian Prince scam. Although the African country is regularly cited in these hoax emails, it’s believed that only around 6% of them actually originate from Nigeria.

John Murray

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