Minister of Interior asserts social media monitoring is to prevent terrorism, not stifle freedoms
By Ahmed Mansour
The Ministry of Interior acknowledged plans to monitor social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+, sparking concerns this would be used against opposition groups. In an interview with the state-run Middle East News Agency, however, Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim asserted the decision regarding internet surveillance will not violate freedoms and its sole purpose is to help maintain national security.
Ibrahim said monitoring the internet will help prevent “terrorism and the spread of information about manufacturing bombs and IEDs, as well as [prevent terrorists from] getting hold of manufacturing materials, electric circuits, the knowhow of remote explosions and killings.”
Ibrahim said the government would be using software designed to monitor “security threats on social media and to public safety”. He added that the software will enhance government reaction to prospective attacks by providing accurate information and statistics about topics the ministry considers illegal or against public morals and traditions.
Khalid Mohsen, a human rights lawyer, told Egypt Today that, “under all cases, this is considered to be a violation of freedoms. If the government suspects someone as a threat to national security, they would have to get involved in all of his/her conversations, even the ones that are not related to a terrorist attack, and they don’t have the right to do that.”
“If the government found someone that was using the internet to plot an attack, all the evidences that they gather off his profile, such as conversations or search results, [the collected evidence] cannot be used against the defendant in a fair trial,” said Mohsen. “They will only use it to pinpoint the terrorist to later arrest him while he is in action.”
“I would go as far as saying that this is nonsense,” said Mina Khayat, a software security engineer at McAfee International, to Egypt Today. “First of all, if there is a person who needs to know how to make a bomb, he is surly going to use Google, not Facebook nor Twitter, and for the government to monitor the searches done by the people on Google search, Google has to approve it first and give the government access to their database.”
“If Google has already done that, by law, Google has to state it officially to the media, and that didn’t happen yet,” said Khayat.
In his statement, Ibrahim said the government has monitored the internet since the 2011 Revolution and the people should not be surprised. Ibrahim asserted that freedom of speech would not be affected in any way, and “the past few months is a proof of that.”
The government is also planning to monitor social media by creating multiple fake accounts that will spread across social media platforms to be able to access the accounts they suspect of “destruction planning.” et