Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1394, (17 - 23 May 2018)
Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Issue 1394, (17 - 23 May 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Internet crimes spawn new law

A new law tightening the grip on the use of modern technology in carrying out cybercrimes has been approved by parliament, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

Internet crimes spawn new law
Internet crimes spawn new law

Egypt’s parliament on Monday approved a new government-drafted law that seeks to target cybercrimes. The 45-article law, called the Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes Law, is focused particularly on combating the danger of extremist and terrorist organisations using the Internet to carry out terrorist attacks and destabilise the country. Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said “all of the law’s 45 articles were approved in general, but as we do not have a two-thirds majority right now as required by the constitution, the final vote on this law will be postponed to a later date”.

Abdel-Aal said the debate in the House of Representatives on the law “came only after it took a sufficient time of study and discussion in government and parliamentary circles. It also came after we sought the opinion of the National Council for Human Rights and the State Council which agreed that the law is in line with the constitution,” said Abdel-Aal.

Abdel-Aal told MPs: “As you know, the information systems of any state basically depend on three pillars. The first should regulate the infrastructure of information systems and the affiliated crimes resulting from accelerated technology progress. The second should safeguard the private data and statements of citizens and clients. The third tackles the free use of data and statements only after a complete legislative and informational infrastructure is put in place.”

According to Abdel-Aal, not only does the law cover the three categories but also aims at implementing Article 31 of the constitution which states that a law on safeguarding the country against cybercrimes should be issued as part of a new strategy aimed at improving national security and economy.

Nidal Al-Said, head of parliament’s Telecommunications and Information Technology Committee, said the law was drafted in a way that guarantees securing a balance between the legal use of the Internet on the one hand and safeguarding the use of state and private statements, data and information systems against infiltration and abuse.

According to Al-Said, the first 10 articles of the new law define commonly used concepts such as website, traffic date, digital directory, personal statements and national security. Article 2 regulates ISPs (Internet Service Providers) activities and their obligations to provide national security authorities with information and technical assistance necessary to help them do their jobs.

Bahaaeddin Abu Shoka, head of the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, blamed the government for taking too much time in drafting the law. “We see that many countries passed such important laws a long time ago to protect their national security interests,” said Abu Shoka. “The abuse of the Internet in a way that poses a threat to national security and to the dignity and honour of citizens has made the law inevitable.”

According to Abu Shoka, the Internet has advantages and disadvantages. “The law aims at containing disadvantages in order to prevent the abuse of these websites in assaulting the private lives of citizens and infiltrating the country’s national security data.”

Alaa Abed, head of the Human Rights Committee, said “extremist and terrorist groups have become so active in carrying out cybercrimes against Egypt. They are doing their best to destabilise the country,” said Abed.

MPs also seized on the law to open fire on social websites, especially Facebook.

Saad Al-Gammal, head of the Arab Affairs Committee, said “these should rather be called the socially destructive websites. This is true as we now see that terrorist organisations have become very skilful in using social websites to destabilise countries and spread chaos.”

Osama Sharshar, an independent MP, said the law should be directed to fight “the electronic militias of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. “These militias are very active and more dangerous than the group’s armed and military militias, and so the penalties in this law should be tough enough to disqualify the electronic arms of this group.”

The cybercrime bill will also permit local and foreign websites involved in broadcasting “statements, figures, photos, pictures, films or any other material that might pose a threat to national security” to be blocked.

Article 3 states that the law also covers foreigners who commit any of the crimes targeted by its articles if the said crime was carried out on Egyptian air, land and maritime means of transport, and that this crime led to the killing of an Egyptian, that it was committed by a criminal gang targeting Egypt and other countries, or that the perpetrator of the crime was arrested in Egypt.

Article 4 obliges state authorities to reach bilateral agreements with as many foreign countries as possible in fighting cybercrimes and exchanging information in this respect.

Articles 5 and 6 state that officials who will be responsible for implementing the law will be granted judicial powers that will help them tighten the grip on cybercrimes.

Article 7 also states that investigation authorities will be authorised to block any websites or online activities only after they have strong evidence that these websites are involved in broadcasting material that pose a threat to national security. Owners of websites can appeal the decision before the affiliated criminal court.

Article 9 states that the prosecutor-general is authorised to ban defendants accused of cybercrimes from travelling abroad.

The law’s Chapter 1 on penalties, including articles 14 to 22, covers crimes focused on assaulting information technology systems and grids. Article 20 imposes a fine ranging from LE50,000 to LE200,000 and a two-year prison term for people convicted of assaulting information systems affiliated with the state.

Chapter 2, including articles 24 and 25, tackles crimes committed by information systems and technologies, and crimes related to e-mails. Persons found guilty of creating an e-mail or private account or a website in the name of another person or institution will be sentenced to three months in prison and fined between LE10,000 to LE30,000.

While Chapter 3 covers penalties imposed on assaulting private lives and illegitimately attacking a certain information content, Chapter 4 deals with managers who set up, use and administer certain websites or accounts for the purpose of committing certain crimes.

Chapter 5, including articles 31 and 34, details the criminal responsibility of ISPs.

The remaining articles cover cybercrimes which target national security, national unity and social peace.

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