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Is Egypt Surveilling Social Media To Hunt Down Gay People? - VIDEO

Egyptian surveillance

Concerns are mounting in Egypt that authorities will use new online monitoring software to hunt down LGBT people, reports Buzzfeed.

Earlier this month, Egyptian authorities arrested nine men for "debauchery" but later concluded that "the men tested negative for homosexuality."

Using U.S. technology, Egypt is now monitoring online communications, giving the government an unprecedented ability to comb through data from Skype, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp and Viber.

In recent weeks, Egypt’s LGBT community has issued warnings to avoid using Grindr after rumors spread that officials were using the app to arrest gay men.

Although Egyptian officials have said their monitoring of online activity will focus on preventing terrorist attacks, one Interior Ministry official said the current mandate was “much broader”:

“We are looking at any conversation, any interaction, we might find worrying or would want to keep a closer eye on. We are watching conversations between Islamists, or those who discuss Islamism. We are watching communities, which we consider at risk.”

EgyptThe official went on to say that those taking part in “debauchery” or “homosexual acts” would be watched “for the protection of Egypt.”

He added that although he wasn’t familiar with Grindr, there were “dozens of Facebook groups” used by the LGBT community that are being watched.

Gen. Hany Abd el Lateef, a spokesman for Egypt’s Interior Ministry, denied that the government plans to monitor citizens’ private lives.  

However, a copy of the tenders issued by the Interior Ministry which specifies the type of online communications it will be searching for suggests otherwise.  The list includes:

  • Blasphemy and skepticism in religions
  • Spreading of rumors and intentional twisting of facts
  • Sarcasm
  • Pornography, looseness, and lack of morality

Providing the service to the Egyptian government, See Egypt is the sister company of the U.S.-based Blue Coat.

Ali Miniesy, the CEO of See Egypt, said that the company had been contracted to provide Egypt’s State Security with the system, and to teach officials how to comb through data gathered from email accounts and social media sites.

He added that although the software can be used to penetrate social media and other software, it is a system similar to that used by most Western governments, including the United States.

According to Eva Blum-Dumontet, an advocacy officer with the U.K.-based NGO Privacy International:

“This new software makes it very easy to target anyone, en masse. The user simply says, ‘I want to look for atheists, or homosexuals,’ and the company gets all the data. It’s extremely easy.

"There is a difference between what you do on social media and what you do in the real world. The concern is that people who are not necessarily our protesting would suddenly be on the radar of the Egyptian authorities because they liked a status on Facebook or retweeted something.”

Egyptian Human Rights groups filed a lawsuit on June 17 alleging that the system used by Egypt “threatens private life and public freedom.”  However, the lawsuit could take years to work its way through the courts, and in the meantime the See Egypt technology will continue to be used.

Watch a report on this story, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Egyptian Forensic Department Conducts 'Medical Test', Concludes Men Accused Of Inciting Debauchery 'Not Homosexuals': VIDEO

Egypt

Following the arrest of nine men for a 'gay marriage' Internet video, Egypt's Forensic Medicine Authority have found the men are "not homosexuals."

6a00d8341c730253ef01b8d06603fb970c-200wiAs forensics spokesman Dr. Hisham Abdel Hamid put it in a surreal-sounding statement to CairoScene, "The men tested negative for homosexuality."

This is not the end for the men — despite the evidence in their favor, their ultimate fate remains unsure. Said Dr. Hamid: "What happens next is up to the judicial process." The men are being charged with "inciting debauchery," and it's difficult to say how these test results may impact the charge — it seems it'd be entirely possible to "incite debauchery" as a heterosexual.

Daily News Egypt reports it's not uncommon for suspected Egyptian homosexuals to undergo medical tests that determine whether they are “habitual” homosexuals — the language used in other cases similar to this one.

The 'wedding video' incident is the latest in a series of crackdowns on homosexuality by the Egyptian government.

Interestingly, Egyptian law does not explicitly forbid homosexuality. However, the recent crackdowns accuse the suspects of “violating the teachings of religion and public morals.”

You can watch what is reportedly the video in question titled "Egypt's first gay marriage", AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Egyptian Forensic Department Conducts 'Medical Test', Concludes Men Accused Of Inciting Debauchery 'Not Homosexuals': VIDEO" »


Egyptian Authorities Arrest Nine Men for 'Inciting Debauchery' Over 'Gay Marriage' Video

Egypt

Egyptian authorities have arrested nine men on charges of inciting debauchery and undermining public morals for appearing in a video purporting to show the country's first gay marriage, Reunters reports:

The footage, which was posted on YouTube, appears to show a group of men celebrating a gay wedding on a Nile riverboat.

The public prosecutor's office said in a statement late on Saturday the party took place in April but the footage went viral in August, causing the police to take action to identify the men.

The statement said the images were "humiliating, regrettable and would anger God," concluding that they constituted a criminal act and would be investigated.

Watch the alleged 'gay marriage' video, AFTER THE JUMP...

AFP adds:

Prosecutors have also ordered "medical tests" of the men –  a longstanding practice in Egypt to allegedly identify homosexuals that has been denounced by human rights groups. 

Back in April, we reported on gays in Egypt observing increased rates of arrests by government officials. 

Continue reading "Egyptian Authorities Arrest Nine Men for 'Inciting Debauchery' Over 'Gay Marriage' Video" »


Grindr Addresses Security Breach, Rolls Out Easily Bypassed Patch: VIDEO

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Grindr’s administrators temporarily disabled the popular hookup app’s location-awareness features yesterday afternoon following widespread concerns about a security exploit that exposed 600,000 users’ exact locations worldwide regardless of their privacy settings. The flaw in Grindr’s infrastructure allowed anyone, including people not using the service on a phone or tablet, to triangulate a specific users precise location by pinging Grindr’s servers. Though popularly thought to be a predominantly western app, Grindr boasts a global userbase of over 6 million people, many of whom are logging on from within countries with explicitly homophobic laws.

After discovering the potential security breach, an anonymous European Grindr user took to demonstrating just how easy it was to parse out other users’ personal information. Despite being alerted to the problem, Grindr’s developers initially responded to the backlash by asserting that the application was merely functioning the way it was meant to.

The sudden shutdown of the app’s location functionality was seemingly meant to address the bug. However, hours after users were able to seek one another out from their phones, America Blog’s John Aravosis easily found other users in Brunei, Russia, and Iran. This raises particular concerns in light of a slew of Grindr-assisted arrests in Egypt. Rather than fully patching the problem, Grindr’s development team has implemented a series of roadblocks:

"It appears, according to the anonymous Grindr user who uncovered the security breach, that Grindr is blocking the IP address of anyone attempting to find the exact location of its users. (Grindr is also requiring you to register a new account before massively [violating] the privacy of their users.) But if Grindr thinks this is a sufficient fix, they might want to have a chat with the following gay men I just found in Tehran and Brunei. All you have to do, apparently, is create a new IP address and a new account, and voila, you’re in."

It is important to note that Grindr users who disable their location sharing from within the app should be protected from the break.

Watch a video demonstrating the Grindr security breach AFTER THE JUMP...

UPDATE: Grindr has issued a statement on the security concerns:

"In light of recent security allegations surrounding a user’s specific location, Grindr has made modifications to no longer show distance information for users.  Grindr will continue to make ongoing changes to keep all users secure, as necessary."

Continue reading "Grindr Addresses Security Breach, Rolls Out Easily Bypassed Patch: VIDEO" »


Gays in Egypt Observing Increased Arrests by Government

Recent arrests in Egypt have the gay community there very worried, the Guardian reports:

EgyptActivists interviewed by the Guardian said they had documented up to nine raids across the country since October 2013 – an unusually high rate of arrests. Most significantly, at least seven raids have seen people arrested at home rather than at parties or known meeting places, raising concerns that the community is facing the start of a targeted crackdown.

The latest and most concerning raid saw four men seized from their east Cairo apartment on 1 April within hours of signing the lease, according to activists. Within a week, the four were given jail terms of up to eight years – sentences unusual for both their length and the speed at which they were handed down.

No one seems to be sure of the reason behind the increasing arrests but there are a few hypotheses:

 Some think the raids are simply another example of the aggression aimed at all kinds of dissidents in recent months. Also, several of the raids may have been caused by complaints from neighbours, rather than instigated by the state itself.

...Many wonder if the government wants to assure a largely homophobic Egyptian society that – despite ousting Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last summer – they can be as conservative as the man they replaced. April's arrests, for instance, came soon after a police chief announced a special taskforce to arrest atheists.

or...Another explanation is that widespread coverage of the raids would help distract the public from the government's failings – much as the media storm sparked by the 2001 arrest of 52 men at the Queen Boat, a gay nightclub in Cairo, did for Hosni Mubarak's regime.


Egypt Sends Four Men to Prison for Homosexual Acts

Egypt has sentenced four men to prison for homosexual acts, the BBC reports:

EgyptThe men were accused of attending or arranging "deviant" sex parties, and dressing in women's clothes and wearing make-up. Egyptian law does not explicitly ban homosexual acts, but prosecutors have used legislation banning debauchery to try homosexuals.

The verdict has been condemned by human rights campaigners.

One of the men was jailed for three years with hard labour by the court in Cairo. US-based Human Rights First group said it was "alarmed and disappointed" at the verdicts.

More from Human Rights First:

Human Rights First today expressed serious concern over news reports that three Egyptian men have been sentenced to eight years in prison and a fourth man sentenced to three years in prison for “homosexual acts.” The men were convicted by an Egyptian court today for violating Article 9(c) of Law 10/1961, which provides a penalty of up to ten years for “habitual debauchery.”
 
“We are alarmed and disappointed to hear of the verdict convicting these men based on their sexual orientation and identity.” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “Egypt is a bellwether state in the Arab region; what happens in Egypt sets a trend for developments throughout the Arab world.   The United States has a long-standing, close and complex relationship with Egypt, and it must use its leverage to protest the expansion of the crackdown on political dissent and now LGBT people. We urge the Obama administration to immediately condemn this ruling and to calculate these latest sentences in its assessment of how to take concrete steps to advance human rights and the rule of law in Egypt.  When President Obama spoke in Cairo in 2009 about protecting ‘the principles of justice and progress; tolerance and dignity of all human beings’ he certainly meant all Egyptians, including LGBT people.”

HRF says arrests of LGBT people have increased dramatically since Morsi was ousted in 2013.


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