Facebook verifies accounts of Egyptian activists

Mariam Rizk , Wednesday 8 Apr 2015

Move stirs debate over whether future posts by activists and journalists will have legal consequences

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Facebook has verified the accounts of several Egyptian activists, many with critical views of the government, posing questions about their legal accountability for future posts.

Those with recently verified accounts include journalists, researchers, bloggers and political activists.

Facebook started verifying accounts in May 2013, “to help people find the authentic accounts of celebrities and other high-profile people and businesses.”

According to Facebook, the small blue tick will only be put next to the names of prominent celebrities, journalists, government officials, popular brands and businesses with large audiences.

Socialist activist Wael Khalil, one of those who woke up on Wednesday to find their Facebook account had a blue tick, said the legal debate around it did not concern him.

“I deal with my Facebook posts as public statements that I stand by and take responsibility for,” said Khalil, who is also a software engineer.

He said the online authentication will not have much effect in Egypt’s “unstable legal environment.”

The list of those with new authentication signs include Mona Seif, the founder of the "No to Military Trials" movement and sister of jailed activists Alaa Abdel-Fattah and Sanaa Seif. Also verified is Egyptian-Palestinian poet and political scientist Tamim Al-Barghouti and political activist Mahinour El-Masry, who received a suspended sentence last year for illegal protesting.

Facebook decides on whom to verify. Settings on the most popular social media website state that users cannot request verification in the region including Egypt.

In recent months, police have arrested people who allegedly belong to the banned Muslim Brotherhood and use social media to promote violence and plan anti-government protests.

In 2011, a Facebook page called “We Are All Khaled Saied” gathered massive online support that spilled over into street protests and forced longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak to step down.

Khaled Saied was a young man tortured to death by police in Egypt’s second largest city of Alexandria in 2010.

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