Egypt tightens control of the internet

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi signs new law tightening the government's control of the internet.

Elad Benari ,

Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi
Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has signed a new law tightening the government's control of the internet, CNN reported Sunday.

Sisi signed the legislation on Saturday, according to the report.

Aimed at combating extremism, the Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes legislation prohibits the "promotion of the ideas of terrorist organizations" and allows authorities to block websites deemed by judges to be threats to national security.

It also bans the dissemination of information on the movement of security forces and imposes strict punishments for hacking government information systems, according to the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper.

The legislation was originally approved by the Egyptian parliament in May.

Sisi's government has been criticized for blocking critical voices in the media and scrubbing digital content. Nearly 500 websites have already been blocked in Egypt since May 2017, according to the Cairo-based Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression.

The country's parliament has also passed legislation strengthening the government's ability to target social media in its continued efforts to crackdown on dissent. This includes categorizing social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers as public websites and therefore worthy of surveillance.

Those found guilty under the new law can face fines of over $10,000 and up to two years in prison, Al-Ahram reported.

Last year, Egypt blocked the website of one of its most prominent financial newspapers, Al-Boursa, over what authorities called support for terrorism and fake news.

Egypt also blocked access to a number of news websites including Al-Jazeera and Huffington Post Arabic.

Egypt has a longstanding feud with Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera, which it accuses of backing the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Egyptian authorities have launched a crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters since the 2013 ouster of former President Mohammed Morsi, who was a member of the group.

As part of the crackdown, thousands of Brotherhood supporters have been jailed and the group was blacklisted as a terrorist organization.