Egypt's parliament has approved and passed a bill that will see social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers regulated and treated like media outlets. The main reason behind the law is to monitor and regulate social media accounts that allegedly create, publish and distribute fake news.

The social media regulation bill was originally proposed in June 2018 with authorities in Egypt initially citing state security as one of the reasons for proposing the law. The law also gets passed at a time when a group of journalists in the northern Afrikan country have been held in detention for publishing fake news (false news).

"Just when you think Egyptian authorities cannot make a greater mockery of justice, they find a way. These false news charges are merely a tactic to justify the arbitrary detention of journalists who should not have been arrested in the first place," said Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa Coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Fake news on social media

The social media regulation bill is yet to be signed into law by Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. However, his approval and signature is likely just a formality seeing that parliament has already passed it.

The law, which was officially approved in Egypt's parliament on Monday, 16 July 2018, gives government appointed officials the power to block a person's social media account with more than 5,000 followers for publishing what they will classify as fake news. Criteria on what will be deemed as fake news are not yet clear and as such, leaves a lot of room for anything to be classified as such. Especially considering Egypt's history of banning and blocking online media outlets such as HuffPo, the New Yor Times, and more for publishing what they deemed as fake news at the time.

Also given how Egypt, under the presidency of el-Sissi, has often (and continues to) detain and prosecute journalists, this new law should be seen as a threat to the right to freedom of speech of Egypt's citizens

Furthermore, the law states that Egypt’s Supreme Council for the Administration of the Media would be responsible for the monitoring of social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers. This means that the country's media regular would be treating such popular social media accounts the same way it treats media outlets.

Cover image credit: Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Wikipedia Commons

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