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

Updated 18 April 2018

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


US broadcast agency to stop renewing visas for foreign journalists

Updated 12 July 2020

US broadcast agency to stop renewing visas for foreign journalists

  • According to VOA, approximately 76 foreign journalists are facing the possibility that their visas may not be renewed
  • The move also affects employees at other USAGM entities

DUBAI: The US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) might not renew visas for foreign journalists working at Voice of America (VOA).
The decision comes after Michael Pack joined USAGM as CEO last month, and fired the heads of four organizations: Middle East Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Open Technology Fund. 
According to VOA, approximately 76 foreign journalists working for the organization in Washington are facing the possibility that their visas, many of which expire this month, may not be renewed.
A VOA journalist, who asked not to be named, said it could lead to the departure of more than 100 staffers in the foreign language services, reported National Public Radio (NPR). 
The move also affects employees at other USAGM entities. Currently, there are 62 contractors and 14 full time employees at USAGM who are in the US on Exchange Visitor (J-1) visas. There are 15 categories under the J-1 visa, which is essentially a non-immigrant entry permit for individuals with skills who are approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs. It is worth noting that the J-1 is among the visas that were banned by the administration of President Donald Trump in response to the coronavirus disease pandemic, with the administration suggesting holders take jobs away from US citizens.
A USAGM spokesperson told VOA that the agency was conducting a case-by-case assessment of J-1 renewal applications, and so far none of the journalists seeking J-1 extensions appears to have been rejected outright. The spokesperson added said the visa review is aimed at improving agency management, protecting US national security and ensuring that hiring authorities are not misused.
Media organizations have spoken out against the news. “This reported decision puts the lives of intrepid, free-thinking foreign journalists at risk. Many of these journalists have worked with VOA precisely because it offers them the opportunity to report stories that they cannot tell in their home countries without risk of severe punishment,” said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel. 
“If these journalists are forced to return home, some of them will be greeted with jail cells or worse. It is appalling that the VOA’s new boss could be so reckless about the safety of journalists who have given their talents and insights to help the US inform the global public. These journalists deserve protection, not betrayal,”
The National Press Club, which represents more than 3,000 reporters, editors and professional communicators worldwide, also spoke out. “We know of no sensible reason to deny VOA’s foreign journalists renewed visas. These men and women provide an essential service to VOA by reporting from the US and telling the American story to their audiences overseas. They have the language skills and cultural background to perform this work. They are not taking jobs away from American workers,” said its president, Michael Freedman.
At the time of publication USAGM had not responded to Arab News’ request for comment.