Egypt fatwa takes aim at Facebook ‘likes’ used by many businesses

Updated 18 April 2018
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Egypt fatwa takes aim at Facebook ‘likes’ used by many businesses

  • The religious decree drew mixed reactions from ambitious youngsters who rely heavily on Facebook to promote their products
  • Grand Mufti Shawki Allam posted on the Facebook page of Dar Al-Ifa, the Sunni Muslim institution in charge of religious rulings, earlier this week

JEDDAH: A fatwa issued by Egypt’s top mufti saying that buying “likes” on the social media network Facebook is prohibited under Islam because it is a form of fraud has stirred controversy in Egypt.

Grand Mufti Shawki Allam posted on the Facebook page of Dar Al-Ifa, the Sunni Muslim institution in charge of religious rulings, earlier this week and said it was “religiously prohibited” to pay someone to click a “like” on a promotion.

He said in a statement carried by local media that buying fake Facebook likes was tantamount to fraud. The mufti was commenting on a growing trend among young entrepreneurs who use the network to market their businesses.

“If those ‘likes’ are coming through ads or paid promotions on Facebook so that the ad can reach as many users as possible for a certain amount of money, then this is religiously permitted,” Allam said.

“But if those likes are fake and do not reflect the true number of users who saw the ad, then it’s religiously prohibited. The latter case is a sort of fraud that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, stressed is haram when he said ‘He who deceives is not of us’,” Allam said.

While the religious decree has not resonated with ordinary social media users, it drew mixed reactions from ambitious youngsters who rely heavily on Facebook to promote their products.

The platform has emerged as a powerful promotion tool in recent years, given its huge popularity across society. It is also less costly than other means of promotion, such as ads on television and in newspapers.

“I personally agree with what the mufti has said. I think this case is clear-cut,” said Somaia Wael, a makeup artist who is creating a Facebook page to promote herself.

“I’m just about to start and I clearly cannot afford at this stage any sort of unfair competition. I would be crushed by the established makeup artists who buy fake likes on their pages. So I really hope the mufti’s fatwa will convince many to abandon this action. Otherwise, I will have no other option but to follow suit and buy fake likes myself, although I really believe that it’s haram,” she said.

A tech-savvy youngster who helps companies to buy Facebook likes to increase his reach said his job was an essential part of the social media world. 

When contacted by Arab News, he said he would never give up what he was doing. “I respect religion and the mufti but it’s not really a big deal. Who would get harmed if a Facebook page gets more likes? No one,” he said.

Facebook ads in Egypt can reach more than 30 million users, the majority aged between 25 and 35. According to experts, there are millions of Egyptian Facebook accounts that are fake and have been used to drive “likes” or manipulate interest and demand.

 

(With agencies)

FASTFACTS


How new criminal laws threaten Nepal journalism

A Nepalese roadside vendor reads the news in Kathmandu, Nepal, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (AP)
Updated 24 September 2018
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How new criminal laws threaten Nepal journalism

  • The codes prohibit publishing private information, including of officials, ban recording without permission and require photographers to obtain permits in order to take pictures and sell and publish them

KATMANDU, Nepal: Journalists in Nepal are demanding changes to new criminal and civil codes they say undermine freedom of speech and expression.
The laws that took effect last month are general codes of conduct that apply to all citizens of Nepal, but press freedom groups say harsher sentences for libel and privacy violations are having a chilling effect on journalists in the small Himalayan country. Here are some details:
WHY THE NEW LAWS CAME ABOUT
Nepal’s new civil and criminal codes are the result of a new constitution adopted in 2015. Nepalese lawmakers had three years to design a set of laws that prescribe how the constitution should be interpreted. The codes cover everything from stipulating the legal age of marriage to enshrining property rights and describe how each civil violation or crime can be punished.
WHY THEY ARE CONTROVERSIAL
The constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression. But provisions of the new codes appear to limit these freedoms, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. “Nepal’s new criminal code marks a giant step backward for press freedom,” program coordinator Steven Butler said in a statement. For example, the codes make criticizing the president or members of Parliament criminal acts. The codes also prohibit publishing private information, including of officials, ban recording without permission and require photographers to obtain permits in order to take pictures and sell and publish them. The codes say that authorities can detain suspects for up to 40 days while investigating criminal charges. “Now journalists will be first detained and treated like murder suspects even before they are tried or given a chance to clarify,” said Ramesh Bistra, general secretary of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, which has vowed to fight for the codes to be amended. The codes also ban satire, which in Nepal has been a prominent feature in the press and a popular form of protest throughout the country’s changing forms of government — from monarchy to autocratic rule to constitutional monarchy to the republic established in 2007.
CHILLING EFFECT
Press freedom groups say the language of the laws is broad enough to be used as a tool to attack journalists and deter them from doing their work. The four sections on privacy and defamation decree sentences of up to three years in prison and $260 in fines. Previously, journalists could be fined up to $217 for libel. “These new laws have created an environment of fear for the journalists and more and more of them are now practicing self-censorship,” said Taranath Dahal, who heads the Freedom Forum, a Nepal-based media rights group.
GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSE
In response to journalists’ protests, the Nepalese government has formed a committee to recommend changes to the codes’ language. This committee, with representatives from several media rights groups and unions, has been given 45 days to come up with recommendations. The government, however, is not obliged to follow them. Even if the government accepts the changes, lawmakers would have to draft amendments, which would then have to be debated in Parliament before changes could be made. This could take months if not years in Nepal. Until then, the controversial new codes remain in effect.