Category Archives: Legislations

Human Rights and the Internet in Middle East

Controlling the Internet

“The Internet treats censorship as a malfunction and routes around it.”

– John Perry Barlow

 

Since its appearance in Middle East, the Internet has played crucial role in all aspects of life and  changed the way we live, study, work, communicate, interact and become “the the largest free virtual country to which everyone is migrating.”

Backed with their long history of censorship, Mideast countries wanted always to apply the same old rules of local telephone networks on the Internet and Information Technology. Governments are struggling to implement and enforce new laws and regulations to repress people on the Internet.

While policymakers are not serious to draft dedicated cybercrime laws, they may use it as a loophole to implement their Hi-Tech oppression. For example, the UAE updated its cybercrime law with new controversial articles that violate privacy, human rights and freedom of expression. The new ultra-controversial constitution in Egypt includes also strange articles that will help enforcing more oppression and control flow of Information in 21st century.

In our region, several laws are available for online and offline oppression under national security cloak, but fewer regulations on privacy and data protection.

Most, if not all Mideast governments don’t respect the UN Declaration on Human Rights and violate the privacy of their citizens.

From government surveillance to Internet Shutdown, many cases prove without a doubt that we insist to apply the same wrong method and expect different results. Any attempt by Middle East countries to control, censor or shutdown the Internet to prevent flow of information may be understood. What is surprising is the support of the UN through ITU to control the Internet.

Representatives from 193 nations gathered in Dubai to attend The World Conference on International Telecommunications and discuss the new Telecommunications Regulations, especially the most controversial model of the “sender pays”. This Conference might look like new war between East and West on who will control the Internet. The secretive nature of the conference makes it vulnerable to criticism, especially when Internet giants companies like Google started to attack ITU. International Organizations such as the Internet Society feel also that this gathering in Dubai will have an impact on the open Internet model and submitted special statement to ITU.

Whatever the consequences, I understand that this conference will affect the Internet and might bring new players to the arena such as China and Russia. It might also allow authoritarian governments to control the Internet under their own regulations and here lies the problem.

But it doesn’t mean that Middle East countries will succeed in this situation even if they apply the most restrictive measures or even shutdown the Internet.

The latest unfolding events in the region from Tunisian uprising to current complex situation in Syria assure that Middle East will be changing in the 21st century. Whether this change will be good or bad depends on our ability to adapt. The more oppression we apply, the more chaotic our region will be!

Governments need to solve their problems from inside-out and must respect Human Rights because laws and regulations will not solve the problem. Instead, we need to build better people and invest in our human resources.

“Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.” – Plato

 

 

Further Reading

Internet Timeline, Silicon Valley Historical Association

Cybercrime Legislation in the Middle East, Whitepaper by Mohamed N. El-Guindy

Reading the Draft Constitution of Egypt, by Chibli Mallat

Jail for indecent posts, UAE cybercrime law updated

Wikileaks: The Spy Files, Article by Mohamed N. El-Guindy

How Government Spies on You, Article by Mohamed N. El-Guindy

– Human Rights and the Internet, by Steven Hick,
Edward F. Halpin and Eric Hoskins (November 2000, ISBN: 0333777336)

– UN Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 19

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

U.N. report: Internet access is a human right, LA Times

– UN’s ITU should be dismantled, former White House official says, TECHWORLD

– Dear ITU, please don’t bill Internet use like phone calls, ARSTECHNICA

– World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12)

– The leaked ITU document by Cryptome.org

Statement by the Internet Society

Proposals for New Interconnection Model Comes Up Short, by
Internet Society

Muslim Brotherhood “hacked” Saudi Cybercrime law!

Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt criticized of copying cybercrime law from Saudi Arabia, Al Ahram newspaper stated.

Activists in Facebook and Twitter criticized the draft which contains 13 articles dealing with cybercrime and cyber related issues. FJP even left the word “Kingdom” in article 12 of the draft which is related to “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” and irrelevant to Egypt. They also changed the fine from SR to Egyptian Pounds!

In addition to political controversy related to Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, their aim to monopolize everything in the country even regulation will backfire. Instead of drafting real cybercrime law that deal with cybercrime types, investigation procedures, and international cooperation, they insist on playing the same “repression game” with different rules!

Mubarak regime used online censorship and surveillance technology to monitor the internet for political issues and crack down on activists. Now, Muslim Brotherhood with their ruling Islamic party and their majority in parliament want to ban “Porn websites” which will be the first step to block anything against their ideology “In the name of religion”.

The “hacked” Saudi “Anti-Cybercrime law” or their “special cybercrime system” is not considered complete cybercrime law as I investigated in my latest research. It lacks privacy articles, freedom of speech, and there are no specific procedures to investigate such crimes. The law doesn’t include any definition of cybercrime and cyber related crimes and there is also inconsistency between many articles. According to this law, many online activities could be treated as cybercrime due to definitions dilemma. I think that definitions might be intentionally ignored to expand government power over many online activities. But how could you investigate a crime if you’re not able to write the correct definition?

If Muslim Brotherhood were willing to draft complete work, they’d have reviewed “Council of Europe” convention on Cybercrime and UN ESCWA project. But “hacking” is much easier than engineering!

Their dream of the so called “Caliphate” in the 21st Century will make them think of suppressing people instead of making them aware of real threats. This type of “Repression” won’t work in cyber age where everything is possible with just few clicks.

The controversial cybercrime draft is nothing but another failure of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Cybercrime Legislation in the Middle East

ICTs investments in MENA countries are overtaking the rest of the world but they didn’t improve their cyber legislation systems. Cybercrime in the region is rising alarmingly and there no efforts to tackle this phenomenon. Lack of legislative and technical capabilities are common factors in most Middle East countries along with poor security awareness and education. I’m delighted to introduce my latest research to address these latest cybercrime issues in the region. This research includes extensive study for Internet penetration in MENA, country by country assessment, legal frameworks, and challenges facing legislators in the region.

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