Sunday,19 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1305, (28 July - 3 August 2016)
Sunday,19 August, 2018
Issue 1305, (28 July - 3 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

The Internet slander game

More and more people are keeping tabs on their relationships on social media, with some unfortunate results, writes Salonaz Sami

Al-Ahram Weekly

“Do any of you know this guy,” one young woman asked. “I’m dating him,” she added. “I do. I’m married to him,” replied another young woman. Unfortunately, this was not a scene from a comedy movie, but rather a real-life situation played out on the Internet.

A group of young women has created a group on Facebook called “I know him”. The idea is to post pictures of the men in their lives — boyfriends, husbands and even fathers — to find out if they are faithful. However, what started out as a fun experiment ended up tragically when one young woman discovered that the man she was dating was already married.

The group now has more than 20,000 members, all of them women concerned to stick together against cheating husbands or boyfriends. “You post your husband’s photograph, and a woman appears and tells you that she knows him,” commented Sally Suleiman, a writer and TV presenter. “Then what do you do?”

“Does she really know him? Is it even a woman replying to your post,” she wondered. “The possibilities are endless. She could be jealous, have her eyes on your man, or even just be having fun by watching you suffer,” Suleiman added. “If you don’t trust the man you are with, then leave him. It’s that simple,” she advises. “There are other ways to find out if a guy is faithful apart from posting his picture on Facebook.”

But the women’s group has created such a buzz that a group of men has created a similar group called “I know her” in response as a way of defending themselves.

According to lawyer Tarek Al-Awadi, posting someone’s picture without their permission on the Internet qualifies as a crime punishable by law. “It could be a violation of privacy, a misuse of social media, harassment or even slander,” he said. “It also shows how much social media has helped increase the moral decay of our society by allowing young people to put their private lives online for everyone to see,” he added.

It reflects the lack of trust and respect we now have for one another, he suggests. “Some people might use such groups for revenge, blackmail or showing off,” Al-Awadi said. “The punishment for such crimes could be anything from a month to five years in jail, along with a fine that could amount to LE20,000,” he explained.

However, such punishments are only mandatory for men posting women’s photographs and not vice versa. “Egyptian law doesn’t recognise slander of a man’s honour as a crime,” he explained. “Unless you post something about the women in his life, about his wife, mother or sister, for example, an individual cannot be prosecuted for slandering a man,” Al-Awadi said.

According to sheikh Ahmed Badr, Maazoun (a marriage adviser), the appearance of such groups on social media could be the result of a lack of religion in some young people’s lives. “Many members of the younger generation have a lot of free time on their hands, and they all have mobiles or tablets with Internet access 24\7,” he said. “If they post their thoughts without calculating the consequences on them and others,” things could turn out badly for all. “To them, it’s only a game or a way to vent and have fun without considering who might get hurt in the process,” he said.

There is also a lack of parental supervision in some cases. “Many of the people who take part in these groups may have been in failed relationships and see them as a way to get back at their ex-partners,” Badr said. The difficult social and material circumstances which lead to the delay of marriages and thus can result in physiological issues should also be considered, he added.

“Such Facebook groups could lead to homes being destroyed or marriages ending,” he added. “I know one man who was a newly-wed and received messages on the Internet telling him that his wife was a cheat. However, because of his faith he didn’t react impulsively and later discovered that the messages had come from someone who was jealous of his marriage.”

“When I heard about these groups and what was going on in them, my heart literally started aching at the thought that our society could have reached this point,” Badr said.

“Ironically, in our society men who have multiple relationships are considered to be cool guys and even role models for the younger generation,” commented Khaled Tewfik, who works in marketing. “If you have relationships with many different women, you might be considered to be more of a man,” he added.  

“Such men sometimes go on with this lifestyle even after they are married, which is why women like to keep tabs on them,” Tewfik explained. “I can imagine being married to a man of that kind and always feeling that something was going on. But in our society once you are married there is not much you can do about it, especially when men usually know how to keep their relationships secret.”

In one case, a girl posted a picture of her ex-partner who happened to be a police officer on the Internet. His friends saw it and told him, and he took a screenshot of the page and filed an official complaint against her. Fights have also erupted in some areas over Internet slanders, though these have been less common.

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