A lawyer filed a case with the Administrative Court on Thursday demanding a ban on social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter until they obtain official permission to operate in Egypt, state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper reported.
The lawsuit also stipulated that all social media accounts that are unknown and use fake identities should be banned, and users should be obliged to register verifiable personal details when they sign up.
Lawyer Mohamed Hamed Salim, who filed the case, claims that foreign intelligence services and terrorist organizations used social media websites before the eruption of the January 25 revolution to cause chaos in the country and incite protests against the state.
“It does not make sense to leave these two [Facebook and Twitter] websites without official and legal permission to operate, so we can locate whoever commits a crime using them. The state should ban all unknown entities according to article 31 of the constitution, as they have manipulated the Egyptian state and placed millions of spies everywhere that threaten the country’s security,” he said.
Article 31 stipulates: “The security of the digital space is an essential part of the economy and national security, and the state is obliged to take necessary measures to protect it.” Critics have been concerned that this article threatens digital freedoms and allows the state to control content using national security as a justification.
Earlier in June, reports surfaced of a new surveillance system set to be implemented by the Interior Ministry to monitor social media activity, imposing an “electronic grip” on cyberspace. The Interior Ministry said it set up a “monitoring instrument,” to deal with security risks on social media, which includes material posted that involves contempt of religion, spreading rumors, slander, inciting violence and rebellion, calling for protests and sit-ins, encouraging debauchery and “liaising with the enemy,” among other threats listed by the ministry in the leaked report.
The same court ruled on February 2013 to impose a month-long ban on YouTube after the website published a movie deemed offensive to Islam and the Prophet Mohamed.
Amnesty International slammed the decision. “This ruling is a clear assault of freedom of expression and has far-reaching consequences in a country where activists have relied heavily on YouTube to expose human rights abuses,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
But the Ministry of Communication later appealed the verdict, referring to the technical impossibility of banning YouTube, which would require banning the Google search engine and would lead to many financial losses.