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31 Aug 2023

Enas Kamal, SMEX

Egypt: Feminist content creators allegedly face digital violence and hate speech on social media

“Feminist content creators in Egypt: Digital violence not limited by law or customs”

In Egypt, social media has become another avenue for women to face digital violence and hate speech that affects their lives and their presence on digital platforms.

Feminist ideas in Egypt, and Content Creators of supportive content for women, are usually met with violent digital attacks, such as attempts to hack accounts, hate speech, defamation, and what is known as revenge porn, i.e. publishing offensive images of women, either by filming them without their knowledge or stealing their photos...

One day, Aya Mounir, founder of the “Superwomen” initiative, which was launched in 2016 to support women, found herself the victim of a cyber-attack less than a minute after she re-shared a post by a Salafist preacher talking about polygamy, criticizing his opinion with some sarcasm.

Every time she publishes any content directed at women, Mounir is exposed to waves of digital violence, such as “bullying and ridiculing my marital status as a divorcee,” she tells SMEX, pointing out that “some of these fragile comments come from my close circles, such as the family.”...

The attacks are not limited to digital violence, but may even reach the point of attempting to close accounts and private pages. Egyptian feminist activist Samira Abdel Qader, founder of the “No to Polygamy” page, said in an interview with SMEX, “Six Facebook pages and personal accounts were closed due to reporting campaigns solely for criticizing the unjust laws for women in Egypt, such as the Personal Status Law.”

Even when she tried to raise the matter with Facebook, the answer was that her pages “violate standards and broadcast hate speech, without specifying the post in which the violation was recorded and in what form it occurred,” as she explains...

Abdel Qader considers that “there is a strong link between hate speech, the means of communication, and widespread crimes against women, and we witnessed this in the case of Naira Ashraf, who was slaughtered by a young man in front of her university in 2020.” At that time, social media witnessed violence against those demanding justice for Naira and a wave of justification for what the killer did, according to Abdel Qader...

Women who are exposed to digital violence fear reporting “for the same reasons that prevent them from complaining about daily violence...In addition, their personal data will be made public, and they may be exposed to pressure and blackmail in order to drop the case.”

Moreover, laws such as cybercrime law No. 175 of 2018 was used to persecute women; famously used in the pursuit of female entertainment content creators through “TikTok” in 2020, for allegedly “violating the values of the Egyptian family,” according to a study entitled “Spaces of Violence and Resistance: Women’s Rights in the Digital World.”... by the “Euro-Mediterranean Network for Human Rights” in 2021...

[Unofficial Arabic to English translation provided by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre. The original is available in Arabic here.]