Egypt's Fight Against Fake News Turns Focus To Internet Celebs

Egypt's fight against fake news is turning its focus to Internet celebrities and any other remotely influential user of social media in the Middle Eastern country. Earlier this month, Cairo enacted a law allowing for censorship and other sanctions to be imposed on any social media user with over 5,000 followers should authorities determine that their profiles are used for spreading misleading and factually inaccurate content for any purpose, intentionally or not.

The Supreme Council for the Administration of the Media will be in charge of overseeing the new legislation being enforced, having been tasked with both conducting compliance investigations and punishing violators. Besides fake news, the law is also targeting hate speech and any other kind of content encouraging illegal behavior. The move is likely to be a controversial in the West as it makes Egypt's existing legislation regulating media even stricter. As of today, over 30 journalists have been incarcerated in the country for expressing anti-regime sentiments, having been found guilty of discrimination or speech that incites hatred and violence. The proof of burden is still on the state and must be fulfilled until any individual can be arrested based on the law, though human rights advocacy groups are likely to remain skeptical about how the legislation will be enforced in practice.

The Supreme Council is now also in charge of issuing mandatory licenses for news websites, as per the same bill, having hence been given an even larger role in Cairo's censorship effort. The law was passed with an approval from two-thirds of the Egyptian parliament and will be ratified by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi later this year. Western nations are presently also exploring legal options meant to fight fake news, though their measures against those issues are unlikely to be comparable to those Cairo is now pushing for in terms of strictness and are likely to primarily target platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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