Egypt Parliament in haste to approve cybercrime bill: Ambiguous provisions, loose definitions, legalized web censorship |
In a whirlwind Tuesday meeting attended by a bevy of state officials, 14 articles of the cybercrime prevention bill were approved by Parliament’s Communications and Information Technology Committee (CITC) in a span of two hours.
The government-drafted bill, which is composed of 45 articles and includes 29 penalties sentencing offenders to up to five years in prison or fines of between LE,10,000 and LE20 million, was referred by the legislature’s speaker to the committee early this month and has largely been approved in principle.
The bill’s significance stems from the fact that, in the event that it is passed, it would be the first piece of legislation to regulate what is published on social media and establish principles to confront cybercrimes such as piracy and the hacking of private and government websites. Most importantly, the bill would set a precedent in regulating web censorship.
The gap in opinion between detractors and proponents of the bill does not center so much on whether cybercrime legislation is necessary, however, but on protection of data and the broad leeway the legislation would grant to authorities to place limitations on liberty.
For Ghada Moussa, the Planning, Monitoring and Administrative Reform Ministry’s transparency committee secretary general, there certainly is a need for a cybercrime law. But such a law, in her estimation, can only be part of a legislative package whose primary concern would be to make information available, with the identification of confidential information and regulation and protection thereof as a second priority, appended by a law to set exceptions and outline crimes.