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arabic dotless

Social Media & Palestine: Dotless Arabic outsmarts algorithms

Social media platforms deleted Palestinian content – now people use dotless Arabic to bypass that. Here is how to write Arabic without dots

Last updated: 11 months ago

I am against all kinds of censorship. We all should say what we want. After all, nobody should presume to determine what is right or wrong.

In my opinion, the judgment of things or events depends on your experiences, your socialization, your wealth and above all: from which geographical and historical point you look at it.

Therefore, we all should have the right to express our point of view.

Palestine and social media

In the current coverage of Palestine, many principles of a free-speech world have been disregarded. Some videos showing disturbing events in Palestine were deleted. Some accounts were even blocked.

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram officially say it was a technical failure, a “technical glitch”.1

Regardless whether the officially stated reason is true, there is a trick to get around these so-called “technical glitches” on most social media platforms – by writing Arabic without .

Many activists have shared posts about that.

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Of course, it is only a matter of time before the automated systems also understand dotless Arabic script. But there are many other possibilities. Dialects in non-uniform , for example, are still difficult – for computers.

Can you read dotless Arabic? An example

This is a random paragraph from the Arabic newspaper al-Quds – in dotless Arabic:

عره: اسٮسهد ڡلسطٮٮٮاں وأصىٮ 7 آحروں، حرّاء ڡصڡ إسرائٮلى طال مٮرلٮں، ڡى مدٮںه حاٮٮوںس حٮوٮى ڡطاع عره، ومحىم حٮالىا ڡى السمال.
وڡال سهود عٮاں إں ڡلسطٮٮٮاً اسٮُسهد، وأصىٮ آحر، ڡى الڡصڡ المٮواصل على مٮطٯه العطاطره ڡى ٮىٮ لاهىا سمالى ڡطاع عره.

Here is the original text:

غزة: استشهد فلسطينيان وأصيب 7 آخرون، جرّاء قصف إسرائيلي طال منزلين، في مدينة خانيونس جنوبي قطاع غزة، ومخيم جباليا في الشمال
وقال شهود عيان إن فلسطينياً استُشهد، وأصيب آخر، في القصف المتواصل على منطقة العطاطرة في بيت لاهيا شمالي قطاع غزة

Tools to write dotless Arabic

Website: dotless.app

The website https://dotless.app does the job almost perfectly. Just enter the Arabic text and press on convert. You can simply copy and paste the dotless text.

dotless app 1

Other websites

There are other websites too but not all of them convert the text nicely. If dotless.app doesn't work for you, you may try:

History: When Arabic was written without dots

The dots (diacritical marks) on were possibly inspired by pre-Islamic Nabataean or Syriac examples. In Arabic, they first appear in the 7th century. During the two following centuries, the markers were gradually used in copies of the Qur'an, but also in private texts.

The term I'jaam (إعجام) denotes the act of dotting the Arabic alphabet. Half of the Arabic characters can form two or three letters which share the same skeleton.

If you delete the dots of the letters ب – ت – ث – ن – ي, you will be left with the very same shape in certain positions, for example, if the letter is connected from both sides:

Traditionally, the difference among these letters was established through context; the dotting system was invented to eliminate ambiguities inherent in the language.

Interestingly, at the beginning, only the ق was distinguished by a dot above (or below) in the 8th century. The dotting of the Arabic alphabet was an ongoing development and there were many attempts.

An early manuscript of the Qur'an, for example, distinguishes ز from ر and ع from غ by a dot beneath and ش by three dots beneath.

Also probably in the 8th century, the Ta' Marbuta received the two dots resulting in ة.

A century later, a small form of the ك was inserted inside the final letter ك to distinguish it from the final letter ل.

  1. Reuters article: www.reuters.com/article/israel-palestinians-socialmedia-idUSL8N2MU624 ↩︎
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