- I first reported this on WiredPen (8 October 2010).
Howard Rheingold suggested this might be a good use case for Storify; this is a chronological sequence.
(1) Commercial organizations freely copy images to which they have NO rights and publish them on sites where they claim copyright.
(2) I can find no evidence that these established and commercial media attempted to determine the provenance of these images, which have been circulating on the Net since at least 2005. Given that these images have been in the wild since 2005, and no one noted this, I think it's pretty safe to say that the spreading of this meme falls in the "copy and paste without thinking" category of posting.
(3) Digital literacy: it's not just for millennials.
- This timeline shows the progression of the meme. At no place along the way have I found any credible source that validates the claim; in other words, there is no evidence that this is a concerted effort by the Saudi Arabian government to reduce the impact of western culture.
December 22, 2005.
- Museum of Hoaxes publishes "Mariah Carey's Saudi Arabia Album Covers".
- The post author, Alex Boese, writes: "the lack of a clear source for these images makes me suspicious."
No Date: First Comment August 28, 2006
- MediaBum ran the pictures. There is no date; today there is no editorial/narrative. However, Museum of Hoaxes linked to this page as a source and said that there was then editorial, not just images ("Because of the laws over there her album covers had to be touched up to be made less sexy.")
April 21, 2007.
- A long comment thread on MetaFilter discusses veracity of the images.
September 2, 2010.
- ArtsySpot publishes the images.The images also appear on AcidCow.
ArtsySpot is two-faced on the subject of copyright. From the footer: "© 2009-2010 Artsy Spot. All Right Reserved." From the about page:
October 3, 2010.
- A skeptical Facebook post.
October 4, 2010.