Minister says ‘Egyptian Facebook’ is underway, users already looking for a name

Egypt has said it is looking at creating its own version of Facebook, but the country’s people have already started questioning the motives (AFP)
Updated 13 March 2018
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Minister says ‘Egyptian Facebook’ is underway, users already looking for a name

CAIRO: Egypt has taken concrete steps toward establishing an “Egyptian Facebook” and a hashtag on the subject has already strarted trending on Twitter Egypt.

The country’s telecommunication and information technology minister said Monday that Egypt is working on establishing a social networking platform similar to Facebook.

Minister Yasser El-Qadi said the move was part of a plan to be an active partner in the field of social media internationally, according to Ahram Online.

Though he did not provide further details regarding the project, he said the protection of data and information was important, and that the Egyptian state was keen on safeguarding the personal privacy of its citizens.

He added that Egypt had grown capabilities in protecting information and preserving the privacy of its citizens online.

The minister made the statements during a workshop organized by the Egyptian Justice Ministry to face extremism and ways to combat it.

But Facebook users decided they could not miss the opportunity to poke fun at the announcement, embarking on a Twitter hashtag that read in Arabic: #Suggest_a_name_for_theEgyptianFacebook

The hashtag was widely trending on Twitter in Egypt, as some suggested calling the local version of the global networking site as “Egyptian Face,” “Fake Book” “Facebookii.”

Others commented on their fears that the Egyptian version of the platform would be used by the government to spy on its users.

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


Twitter warns global users their tweets violate Pakistani law

Updated 11 December 2018
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Twitter warns global users their tweets violate Pakistani law

  • Pakistan has previously threatened to block Twitter if the company did not remove content its government found offensive
  • Pakistan banned Facebook for hosting allegedly blasphemous content for two weeks in 2010 while YouTube was unavailable from 2012 to 2016 over an amateur film about the Prophet Muhammad that led to global riots

WASHINGTON: When Canadian columnist Anthony Furey received an email said to be from Twitter’s legal team telling him he may have broken a slew of Pakistani laws, his first instinct was to dismiss it as spam.
But after Googling the relevant sections of Pakistan’s penal code, the Toronto Sun op-ed editor was startled to learn he stood accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad — a crime punishable by death in the Islamic republic — and Twitter later confirmed the correspondence was genuine.
His perceived offense was to post cartoons of the prophet several years ago.
Furey and two prominent critics of extremism in Islam say they are “shocked” to have received notices by the social media giant this past week over alleged violations of Islamabad’s laws, despite having no apparent connection to the South Asian country.
They say the notices amount to an effort to stifle their voices — a charge Twitter denies, arguing the notices came about as a result of “valid requests from an authorized entity,” understood to mean Pakistan, helped users “to take measures to protect their interests,” and the process is not unique to any one country.
But Furey is the third prominent user in the space of days to publicly complain about receiving a message linked to Pakistan.
The other two are Saudi-Canadian activist Ensaf Haidar and Imam Mohammad Tawhidi, a progressive Muslim scholar from Australia who was born in Iran.
Both are outspoken critics of religious extremism and have accused the social media giant of helping to silence progressive ideas within Islam.
Furey, who detailed his experience in a column for his newspaper on Saturday, told AFP: “I’m somewhat alarmed that Twitter would even allow a country to make a complaint like this, as it almost validates their absurd blasphemy laws.”
The tweet in question was a collage of cartoons of Mohammad that he posted four years ago.
“Looking back, I remember I did it right after there had been an Daesh-inspired attack in retaliation over the cartoons,” Furey wrote in his column, adding he had not posted similar material before or since.
Tawhidi meanwhile was sent a similar notice flagging a tweet that called on Australian police to investigate extremism in mosques following a deadly knife attack in Melbourne in November.
The scholar attached the legal notice sent to him by Twitter informing him of possible violations of Pakistani law, and tweeted: “I am not from Pakistan nor am I a Pakistani citizen.
“Pakistan has no authority over what I say. Get out of here.”
Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Twitter told AFP: “In our continuing effort to make our services available to people everywhere, if we receive a valid requests from an authorized entity, it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time.”
The spokesperson added: “We notify users so that they have the opportunity to review the legal request, and the option to take measures to protect their interests.”
Pakistan has previously threatened to block Twitter if the company did not remove content its government found offensive.
It banned Facebook for hosting allegedly blasphemous content for two weeks in 2010 while YouTube was unavailable from 2012 to 2016 over an amateur film about the Prophet Muhammad that led to global riots.
Furey told AFP that although he was taken aback by the notice, “I’m at least glad they brought it to my attention that the Pakistan government has their eye on me.”
But he added: “One troubling consequence to all of this is that even people in countries without these blasphemy laws may start to self-censor for fear of the reach foreign governments will have over them in the online world.”