When she went to Egypt for vacation, Mona el-Mazbouh surely didn't expect to end up in prison. But after the
24-year-old Lebanese tourist posted a video in which she complained of sexual harassment--calling Egypt a lowly, dirty country and its citizens pimps and prostitutes--el-Mazbouh was arrested at Cairo's airport and found guilty of deliberately
spreading false rumors that would harm society, attacking religion, and public indecency. She was sentenced to eight years in prison.
The video that el-Mazbouh posted was ten minutes long, and went viral on Facebook, causing an uproar in Egypt. In the video, el-Mazbouh also expressed anger about poor restaurant service during Ramadan and complained of her belongings being
stolen. Egyptian men and women posted videos in response to her original video, prompting el-Mazbouh to delete the original video and post a second video on Facebook apologizing to Egyptians.
Nevertheless, Mona was arrested at the end of her trip at the Cairo airport in May 31, 2018 and charged with spreading false rumors that aim to undermine society, attack religions, and public indecency. Under Egyptian law, defaming and insulting
the Egyptian people is illegal.
Unhappy tourists have always criticized the conditions of the countries they visit; doing so online, or on video, is no different from the centuries of similar complaints that preceded them offline or in written reviews. Beyond the injustice of
applying a more vicious standard online to offline speech, this case also punishes Mona for a reaction that was beyond her control. Mona had no influence over whether her video went viral. She did not intend her language or her actions to reach a
wider audience or become a national topic of discussion. It was angry commenters' reactions and social media algorithms that made the video viral and gave it significance beyond a few angry throwaway insults.
Mona el-Mazbouh is just one of many innocent Internet users who have been caught up in the Egyptian governments' attempts to vilify and control the domestic use of online media. At minimum, she should be released from her ordeal and returned to
her country immediately. But more widely, Egypt's leaders need to pull back from their hysterical and arbitrary enforcement of repressive laws, before more people -- including the foreign visitors on which much of Egypt's economy is based -- are
America has been working hard to make itself an unpleasant place to visit and has come up with a new idea to make it even worse. Apparently a significant decrease in international visitors to the USA has been termed the Trump Slump.
Of course some of the slump is considered a positive thing as Trump banned visitors from several terrorist prone nations. But the US also introduced a measure to investigate a wider set of not so desirable visitors, presumably muslims, from other
nations beyond the list of rogue states. The US now demands that 'selected' visa applicants are asked to hand over details of all their social media accounts and emails. Note that this measure was introduced under Obama rather than Trump.
Now, it seems that the Trump administration is intent on putting even more people off visiting the country. The government's latest bright idea is to ask basically everyone who wants to enter America for five years' worth of their social media
According to a state department proposal filed on Thursday, most visitors would be asked for their social media identifiers. It's expected to affect 710,000 immigrant visa applicants and 14 million non-immigrant visa applicants.
Of course anyone who does want to still visit America, then perhaps you had better be a bit more careful about what you say online, and perhaps you had better tidy up your reputation too, lest the US visa vetters think you are better off