The Egyptian government has passed three domestic laws to regulate the distribution of information and ensure its accuracy in both print and online media, including on social networks. Those laws include Law No. 175 of 2018 on Anti-Cybercrime, Law No. 180 of 2018 on Regulating the Press and Media, and Law No. 58 of 1937 and its amendments on the Penal Code.
The Egyptian government is fighting what is considered misinformation by suspending websites and social media accounts, trying to establish a local social media platform to replace Facebook, creating a hotline to report false news circulating on social media outlets, imposing fines on newspapers posting news deemed false by the Egyptian authorities, and arresting and detaining individuals whom the government accuses of spreading false news through social media platforms.
According to news reports, Egypt has the highest number of Facebook users in the Arab world with 34.5 million Egyptians having active accounts, which represents 23% of all Arab Facebook users.
In 2018, President of Egypt Abdu-Al-Fatah al-Sisi claimed that the Egyptian government had identified around 21,000 rumors that were circulated on social media over a three-month period that year. In 2017, the Communication and Information Technology Committee in the Egyptian Parliament revealed that 53,000 false rumors had spread in Egypt in just sixty days. The Committee announced that most of this false news had originated and circulated on social media platforms. In an effort to combat the dissemination of false news, the Cabinet issues statements refuting false information circulated in the media or via online social networks.
In June 2019, the undersecretary of the General Directorate of Information and Relations at the Egyptian Interior Ministry declared that there are around 4 to 6 million pages allegedly circulating misinformation on social media accounts targeting Egyptians.
II. Current Legislation
The Egyptian government has passed four domestic laws to regulate the distribution of information and ensure its accuracy in both print and online media, including on social networks. Those laws include Law No. 175 of 2018 on Anti-Cybercrime,  Law No. 180 of 2018 on Regulating the Press and Media, and Law No. 58 of 1937 and its amendments on the Penal Code. In 2014, the Egyptian Parliament also passed Law No. 45 of 2014 on the practice of political rights regulating the content of electoral campaigns.
A. Law 180 of 2018 Regulating the Press and Media
Law No. 180 of 2018 stipulates that press institutions, media outlets, and news websites must not broadcast or publish any information violating the principles cited under the Constitution, granting the Supreme Media Council the authority to ban or suspend the distribution, broadcast, or operation of any publications, newspapers, media outlets, or advertising materials containing information deemed to threaten national security; disturb the public peace; or promote discrimination, violence, racism, hatred, or intolerance.
The Law authorizes the Supreme Media Council to suspend or block any personal website, blog, or social media account that has a high number of followers—exceeding 5,000—if it publishes fake news advocating and inciting the violation of a specific law or promoting violence or hatred. The Council was created by Law No. 92 of 2016. It is composed of a Chairman who is selected by the President of the Republic and twelve members representing the Parliament, Administrative Court, Journalists Association, National Authority to Regulate Communication, Anti-Monopoly Authority, Supreme Council of Universities, and media experts. The Council reports to the President of the Republic and the Parliament. The role of the Council is to regulate and supervise media outlets in all of their forms: print, broadcast, and electronic.
Law No. 180 of 2018 also prohibits news outlets from posting information in print or online concerning a specific court case if such information will negatively affect the defendant in the case or the trial proceedings. Media outlets must rectify any false information that was posted on their websites without any financial compensation. This is meant to prevent media outlets from demanding payment as a condition for withdrawing or correcting false information they publish. Such rectification must take place within three days from the date of being notified that the information posted was false.
Directors of media outlets or website administrators who violate the provisions on posting case-related information or fail to rectify false information are punishable with a fine of between 50,000 and 100,000 Egyptian pounds (about US$2,855–$5,711).
B. Law No. 175 of 2018 on Anti-Cybercrime
Law No. 175 of 2018 grants the investigating authority the power to block or suspend Egyptian-based or foreign websites featuring content that is deemed threatening to national security or the national economy.
Additionally, any individual who hacks a website in order to alter the information posted on such website or redistributes such information after altering it is punishable with a term of imprisonment of not less than two years, a fine of between 100,000 and 200,000 Egyptian pounds (about US$5,700–$11,400), or both. Individuals who hack a government website in order to erase or modify information posted on the website, or redistribute the information after modifying it, are punishable with a term of imprisonment and a fine of between 1 million and 5 million Egyptian pounds (about US$57,000–$285,000).
The public prosecutor is authorized to impose a travel ban on individuals suspected of committing any act considered a crime under Law 175.
C. Penal Code, Law No. 58 of 1937, and Its Amendments
The Penal Code states that whoever deliberately spreads false information or rumors abroad about the internal conditions of the country that might weaken the country’s financial credibility or harm the country’s national interests is punishable by six months’ to five years’ imprisonment and a fine.
D. Law No. 45 of 2014
Candidates are prohibited from using any negative ads. Law No. 45 of 2014, regulating the practice of political rights, prohibits candidates from using any religious slogans, calls for discrimination, ads attacking other candidates, or electoral propaganda threating national unity of the Egyptian people in their electoral campaigns.
III. Law Enforcement
The Egyptian authorities are enforcing anti-misinformation legislation by imposing fines on newspapers posting news online that the authorities deem false, and arresting and detaining individuals whom the government accuses of spreading false news through social media platforms.
In September 2018, the Associated Press reported that the Egyptian authorities had suspended or blocked five hundred websites that were suspected by the authorities of distributing false information. Those blocked websites included a number of news sites such as Huffington Post Arabic, the financial newspaper Al-Borsa, and the entire online publishing platforms of the Medium andMada Masr. The Egyptian government also blocked websites related to human rights organizations such as the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, Human Rights Watch, and Reporters Without Borders. Similarly, websites belonging to political movements like the April 6 Movement and the Muslim Brotherhood are also blocked.
Furthermore, the Egyptian authorities have imposed fines on some newspapers accusing them of disseminating false information online. For instance, in April 2018, State Security Prosecution summoned the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm and seven correspondents, accusing them of distributing false information. In another example, Adel Sabri, Editor-in-Chief of the Masr El-Arabiya website was detained and charged with the dissemination of false news. The website was also fined 50,000 Egyptian pounds (about US$2,855) by the Supreme Council for Media Regulation for disseminating false information. Similarly, according to a report issued by the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in 2019, the Egyptian authorities imposed a fine on the weekly newspaper al-Mashed and blocked the newspaper’s website for six months after it published an article about security personnel extorting business owners in Cairo. The Supreme Media Council has also accused the newspaper of disseminating false news and invading the privacy of an Egyptian actress.
Finally, the Egyptian authorities have detained some individuals, accusing them of the dissemination of false news on Facebook and Twitter. Political and human rights activists such as Abdel Khalek Farouk, Amal Fathi, Ibrahim Khateib, Hazem Abdel-Azim, and Shady Harb were all charged with using social media to spread false information. These individuals have argued that they were just expressing their opinion online and that the government falsely accused them of disseminating false information.
IV. Other Government Actions
The Egyptian government is fighting what is considered online misinformation by suspending websites and accounts on social media, trying to establish a local social media platform, and creating a hotline to report false news circulating on social media outlets.
In March 2018, Telecommunication and Information Technology Minister Yasser El-Kady announced that, in its effort to eliminate any misinformation currently circulating through social media outlets and combat extremist ideology, the Egyptian government was taking effective steps towards creating an Egyptian local version of Facebook.
In an extra measure to prevent the dissemination of false news, the Egyptian Public Prosecutor has announced the creation of a new hotline for citizens to file complaints against false news posted by media outlets or by individuals on social media networks.
Ali Abaza, the Director of the Interior Ministry’s Cyber Crimes Department, has also declared that more than 1,000 Facebook pages were closed in 2016 alone for inciting violence against police and army officers, and calling for protests.
V. Media Coordination
Based on a report issued in 2018 by Freedom House, the Egyptian authorities may have a role in removing online content that is deemed false by the government. For instance, in October 2017, the newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm argued that an anonymous hacker had removed an article criticizing the president from their website. Likewise, in May 2018, the State Information Service at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ordered Russia Today’s Arabic website to remove an online poll that it had posted on the disputed territories of Halayeb and Shalateen on the border between Egypt and Sudan.
Prepared by George Sadek
Foreign Law Specialist
 Magdy, supra note 2.
 Law No. 175 of 2018, Al-Jaridah Al-Rasmiyah, vol. 32 (bis)(c), 14 Aug. 2018.
 Law No. 180 of 2018, Al-Jaridah Al-Rasmiyah, vol. 34 (bis)(h), 27 Aug. 2018.
 Penal Code, Law No. 58 of 1937, as amended byLaw No. 95 of 2003, vol. 25, Al-Jaridah Al-Rasmiyah, 19 June 2003.
 Law 180 of 2018, art. 4.
 Id. art. 19.
 Law No. 92 of 2016, Al-Jaridah Al-Rasmiyah, vol. 52 bis, 24 Dec. 2016.
 Id. art. 6.
 Id. art. 23.
 Id. art. 4.
 Law 180 of 2018, art. 21.
 Id. art. 22.
 Id. art. 101.
 Law 175 of 2018, art. 7.
 Id. art. 14, para. 2.
 Id. art. 20, para. 3.
 Id. art. 9.
 Penal Code art. 80(d).
 Law 45 of 2014, art. 31.
 Magdy, supra note 2.
 Magdy, supra note 2.
 Freedom on the Net 2018: Egypt, supra note 26.
Last Updated: 12/30/2020