The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has published the “Crime of Speech: How Arab Governments Use the Law to Silence Expression Online,” a new report by Wafa ben Hassine that looks at legal frameworks for online expression in the MENA region generally, and examines which kinds of laws are being used in four Arab-region countries to crackdown on online expression in particular. Ben Hassine completed the report during a six-month period as an Information Controls Fellow through the Open Technology Fund.
Among Ben Hassine’s key findings are
that law enforcement only applies them after it’s identified the journalist or protestor that it wants to arrest. The pattern is that authorities will find the offending speech and then choose the law that can be interpreted to most closely address it. The system results in a rule by law rather than rule of law: the goal is to arrest, try, and punish the individual—the law is merely a tool used to reach an already predetermined conviction.
The report relies heavily on the Arab Digital Rights Datasets and cross-references that data with “specific cases of arrest, detention, and imprisonment due to online activity, and where law enforcement targeted the individual under the guise of going after cybercrime or countering terrorism online.”
Like the legislative data, Ben Hassine’s data of arrests and detention is also openly accessible in CSV format.