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


Egypt reported to have 4-6m fake news pages

An Egyptian carries a load of newspapers in Cairo, Egypt, in this file photo taken on Dec. 1, 2014. (AP)
Updated 16 June 2019
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Egypt reported to have 4-6m fake news pages

  • ‘The fake accounts ... are usually not owned by Egyptians, but by foreigners’

CAIRO: Egypt is reported to have 4 to 6 million fake news pages on social media accounts, according to Ali Hosni, undersecretary at of the General Directorate of Information and Relations at the Egyptian Interior Ministry.
The fake accounts, made to spread false information, are usually not owned by Egyptians, but by foreigners, he added.
Egypt has faced a flood of false rumors on an almost weekly basis, with claims such as that a newly appointed minister was in fact dead, or that of a girl kidnapped in the Beheira, who turned out to have runaway to avoid taking her exams.
According to a recent global survey, 86 percent of internet users have admitted that they have fallen for fake news online. The survey also showed that Egyptians were the most gullible in terms of fake news.

Prohibitory step
The government passed a law prohibiting fake news in an attempt to control the problem. The law, passed in July 2018, states that social media accounts with over 5,000 followers will be treated as media outlets, and their owners could be subjected to fines or prison for spreading fake news.
Responses to the law were skeptical, as people wondered what defined fake news, while others found the law to be vague. With the global survey’s results, it can be presumed that the 2018 fake news law did not have too much of an impact.
There have been multiple reports of social media accounts masquerading as officials and in Egypt turning out to be fake. One, the page for Education Minister Mahmoud Abo Nasr, had 80,000 Facebook followers on it — his genuine official page had only 55,000 followers.