Egypt seeks the help of international companies to monitor social media

According to recently leaked documents, the Egyptian government is planning on developing a new social media monitoring system to match the capabilities of the NSA PRISM program.

Recent reports have illustrated that Egypt is seeking the help of international companies to assist in building this program. The leaked document invites technology companies to offer bids for services that would, amongst other things, scan social media site like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter in real-time for keywords that are “contrary to law and public morality,” or contain calls to protest or strike. The program would also search for and flag any dissent against the government and identify individuals who help the public form opinions that are contrary to law.

Egypt’s interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, claims that this new system “would not affect freedom of expression,” even while confirming that his staff are seeking to mass-monitor social media.

Access is alarmed by the ever-increasing restrictions to freedom of expression being perpetuated in Egypt, that have increased since former President Mohammed Morsi was deposed in July of last year. We believe that any state surveillance must respect international human rights norms, in particular the rights to privacy, free expression, and assembly. The International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communication Surveillance, articulate how human rights law applies in the context of communications surveillance, and are a useful guide here.

We urge the Egyptian government to discard this proposed surveillance system and abide by the country’s international law commitments, and further encourage any international technology companies to refuse to be complicit in building out the country’s spying infrastructure.