‘Arab governments setting online traps to target LGBTs’

Cairo, Feb 21 (EFE).- Human Rights Watch said Tuesday that governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have trapped LGBT people on social media and dating apps, subjecting them to online harassment.

“All This Terror Because of a Photo,” a 135-page report, investigates the digital targeting of sexual minorities in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Tunisia.

According to the report, state actors and private individuals have subjected LGBT people to online extortion and harassment, relying on “illegitimately obtained digital photos, chats, and similar information…, in violation of the right to privacy.”

According to the global rights group, security forces have combined digital targeting tactics with traditional methods of targeting LGBT people, like “street-level harassment, arrests, and crackdowns, to enable arbitrary arrest and subsequent prosecution.”

“The authorities in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Tunisia have integrated technology into their policing of LGBT people,” said Rasha Younes, senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“While digital platforms have enabled LGBT people to express themselves and amplify their voices, they have also become tools for state-sponsored repression.”

The non-profit interviewed 90 LGBT people affected by digital targeting and 30 experts, including lawyers and digital rights professionals, to prepare the report.

The group claimed to have reviewed online evidence of targeting against LGBT people, including videos, images, and digital threats.

The report documents 45 cases of arbitrary arrest involving 40 LGBT people targeted online in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Tunisia.

“In every instance of arrest, security forces searched people’s phones, by force or under threat of violence, to collect – or even create – personal digital information to enable their prosecution.”

The group said most of those prosecuted were acquitted upon appeal as it reviewed judicial files for 23 cases of LGBT prosecuted people, held based on digital evidence under laws criminalizing same-sex conduct, “inciting debauchery,” “debauchery,” “prostitution,” and cybercrime laws.

“In five cases, people were convicted and sentenced to one to three years in prison. Twenty-two people were never charged but were held in pretrial detention, in one case for 52 days at a police station in Lebanon.”

Similarly, Human Rights Watch documented 20 cases of online entrapment on Grindr and Facebook by security forces who created fake profiles to impersonate LGBT people in Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan.

The group found 17 cases of online extortion by private individuals on Grindr, Instagram, and Facebook in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon.

At least six people who reported the extortion to the authorities were themselves arrested, said the report.

“Online abuses against LGBT people have offline consequences that reverberate throughout their lives and can be detrimental to their livelihood, mental health, and safety,” Younes said.

She called on the authorities across the MENA region to stop targeting LGBT people online and offline.

“Social media companies should mitigate the adverse impacts of digital targeting by better protecting LGBT people online.” EFE


Related Articles

Back to top button