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Quelling Social Media Dissent in Egypt

In a troubling development out of Egypt, a country still engulfed in turmoil following the events of the Arab Spring that involved the ouster of two presidents, leaked documents detail the government’s desire to monitor its citizens’ social media accounts for any signs of dissent.

The Arab Spring was primarily a product of social media communication, with Egyptians updating their Twitter profiles and Facebooks with direct-accounts of events around Tahrir Square—information that the Mubarak (and later Morsi) regime was attempting to limit.

After completing yet another round of elections, this is a worrisome sign out of a country increasingly in the spotlight for alleged human rights abuses and limiting civil liberties.

According to the leaked documents, Egypt is actively recruiting IT firms with the ability to monitor all social media platforms—including messaging services such as WhatsApp—for any signs of political opposition. The language is broad and ambiguous, citing such activities as ‘planning sit-ins or illegal strikes’ or ‘profanity usage’ as grounds for governmental action.

The proposed monitoring technology reportedly has the capability to view messages within 30 seconds after being posted, and track the authors within a specific geographic perimeter.

Egypt is suspended in the post-revolutionary vacuum created by its peoples uprising, and its citizens are still struggling for the democracy they desired when they took to the streets in 2011. In a cruel game of ‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss’ that has been played in the country since Mubarak’s ouster, the new government’s active limiting of free speech is yet another indication that the victory the people envisioned has yet to be realized.

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