Egypt plans new controls on social media
Civil society groups are alarmed by the implications of the proposed law.
“This will have a big impact by controlling what people say and don’t say,” says Wafa-Ben Hassine of digital rights group Access Now. “Government issued IDs are linked to a plethora of activities including driving, banking, and medical services so the government will have much more information about users’ whereabouts.”
“Unfortunately these ideas are outdated…The whole world has gone beyond the idea of banning the Internet.”
MP Abdel Sattar did not respond to a CNN request for comment. An official from the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology said the department was not involved with Sattar’s plans.
Even if the bill becomes law, it could be derailed by technical challenges.
Implementing and policing a firewall around the Facebook domain would be resource-intensive. Technically proficient users could likely still bypass security to access the site.
The scale of the registration operation would also be a huge challenge for the government.
“One-third of Egyptians use Facebook so about 30 million people would be submitting requests for permission,” says Wafa Ben-Hassine of digital rights group Access Now. “I doubt the Egyptian government has the capacity to do that. The sheer bureaucratic weight of the initiative is not feasible.”
The plan would also require the cooperation of social networks. A spokesperson for Facebook would not comment.
This initiative represents the latest attempt to crack down on social media in Egypt since the 2011 revolution.
The overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak was dubbed the “Facebook revolution” due to organizers’ use of the social network. Twitter and Facebook were shut down during the uprising.
But regimes that held power after Mubarak have also targeted social media, citing security concerns.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government has taken steps to increase surveillance of the main networking sites, a move that has been criticized by Amnesty International.
Social media users have reportedly been arrested for their posts under the Sisi regime, according to Human Rights Watch, and hundreds of pages have been taken down. The government has also blocked Facebook’s Free Basics Internet service for low-income users, according to Reuters.
For Egypt’s social surfers, the picture could get bleaker still.
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