Internet Surveillance, Entrapment And Censorship On The Rise In Middle East


The Electronic Frontier Foundation recently released an article stating that the digital surveillance and entrapment of LGBT-identified people is in the rise in the Arab world. The EFF also said that more websites are being blocked or censored to clamp down on LGBT speech.

SaudiarabiaThe EFF’s April Glaser and Jillian York state:

“Saudi Arabia isn’t the only country utilizing these tactics. In the United Arab Emirates, where male homosexuality is punishable by death, men have been detained for looking for sex partners in chat rooms (presumably ensnared by covert police officers). And in neighboring Iran, a massive Internet entrapment campaign a few years ago put dozens of men in jail, many of whom were subject to public torture.

State censorship of sexual content abounds online, and LGBTQ content in particular is frequently a target. Support and health websites, and LGBTQ publications are regularly shut down or become inactive… Other countries are known to filter LGBTQ sites nationwide, and U.S. search engine companies have been complicit. Microsoft's Bing service has been found to censor gay and lesbian sites in Arabic countries.”

The article says that the police are increasingly entrapping men through chat and hook-up sites like Hornet, U4Bear, and WhosHere. As a result, many LGBT-identified people are likely self-censoring because a search for online moral support or partnership can jeopardize their job prospects, social reputation, physical well-being and families’ safety.

The EFF has released an in-depth digital security guide for Arabian LGBT people as well as a multi-lingual site to help people avoid institutional persecution for online self-expression.