Egypt to establish 'Egyptian Facebook': Minister

Ahram Online , Monday 12 Mar 2018

Telecommunication and information technology minister Yasser El-Kady (Al-Ahram)
Telecommunication and information technology minister Yasser El-Kady (Al-Ahram)

Egypt has taken effective steps towards establishing an "Egyptian Facebook" as part of a plan to be an active partner in the field of social media internationally, telecommunication and information technology minister Yasser El-Kady said on Monday.

In media statements during a workshop organized by the Egyptian Justice Ministry to face extremism and ways to combat it, El-Kady said that the country should lead actively in terms of social media, instead of being the "predicate" as it has been in past years.

Egypt leads the number of Arab Facebook users according to statistics in 2017, with approximately 34.5 million active accounts, representing 23 percent of all Arab Facebook users.

He added that the preservation of information and data as well individuals' privacy is extremely important at a time where Egypt has grown capabilities in protecting information and preserving the privacy of Egyptian citizens online.

The minister made his statements following a revelation during the same workshop that a cybercrime bill, prepared by his ministry in coordination with the justice ministry, had been submitted to the parliament, stirring debates in the House.

"The Egyptian state has a clear strategy in the field of fighting terrorism through ideology," adding that the government is carrying out important roles in different state institutions to educate the society as to the dangers of terrorist ideologies.

He added that many social media users since the 25 January revolution have broadcast ideas promoting extremism, however recently positive interations by citizens have been noted.

El-Kady pointed out that the state continues to carry out efforts towards stability, among them the ongoing military operations in Sinai, which he said proves that security leads to economic and then overall state stability.

The minister added that Egypt is the first country in the Middle East and Africa to push forward with a strategy involving electronic commerce at a time where a legislative framework is being put in place to preserve citizens and the society.

El-Kady did not provide more details regarding the plan of establishing a social media platform similar to Facebook, however, a telecommunications source told privately-owned Al-Masry Al Youm that the plan comes under the state's objective to "domesticate the technology industry."

The source added that the country has many interactive and entrepreneurship hubs that include youth with hundreds of ideas that could offer new social media platforms, adding that the state would provide the means to allow them to compete internationally.

El-Kady elaborated that Facebook and Google were making millions of dollars from advertisements on their websites, which are used by millions of Egyptians while not being subjects to taxes or fees on such proceeds.

From his side, Egypt's Justice Minister Hossam Abdel-Rehim said his ministry has taken a vital role in combating the broadcasting and publishing of extremist thoughts and rumors that target Egypt's security.

Abdel-Rahim pointed to several current cybercrime bills and an upcoming ammendment to the law of criminal procedure for prosecution of such crimes.

Last week, Egypt's Prosecutor General Nabil Sadek ordered senior prosecutors to monitor, investigate and take legal measures against media and social media outlets that deliberately publish false news with the aim of disturbing public security, striking fear into citizens, and harming the general interests of the state.

Since 2014, Egypt has been pushing with plans to close Facebook and other social media pages that incites for violence against state institutions and security forces.

The interior ministry officially began a social media surveillance programme in September 2014 to track security threats such as terrorism.

As of 2016, more than 1,000 Facebook pages were closed for “inciting violence against police and army officers, calling for [protest] marches and obstructing roads," according to interior ministry officials.

In 2017 Egypt blocked tens of websites for content it said shows support for terrorism and extremism.

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