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In yesterday's iAfrikan Daily Brief newsletter I explored how sometimes African policymakers enact technology policies and regulations that don't benefit citizens (but benefit other people?) or as a form of rent-seeking. Today, I want to extend that and look at how some African governments use tech policies and regulations as a Trojan Horse.

This is because Egypt has arrested several women for their TikTok videos. The Egyptian authorities say that the women's TikTok videos violated public morals, specifically; "violating the values and principles of the Egyptian family, inciting debauchery and promoting human trafficking."

The only reason that the women could be arrested is because of a law that was introduced in Egypt to stop fake news in 2018.

The name "Trojan Horse" is a reference to Greek mythology on how a hollow wooden statue of a horse (a Trojan Horse) in which the Greeks are said to have concealed themselves to enter the city of Troy. Like Trojan Horses in the information security field, the original story of the Trojan Horse is that it was presented as a gift to the people of Troy when in fact it concealed an attack. 🎨 The Procession of the Trojan Horse in Troy by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1727–1804).

During that year (2018), Egypt's President, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, signed into law a rather odd law (to put it mildly). The odd thing about the social media regulation law was that social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers would be monitored, regulated, and treated like media companies. It doesn't stop there, a government-appointed committee would have the power to regulate and block (fine, arrest) any person behind a social media account that has more than 5,000 followers who are deemed to have published fake news.

At this point, you might be thinking why would I consider a law looking to stop fake news as bad. Well, the thing is that the criteria on what will be deemed as fake news is not clear. This leaves room for authorities to classify and justify anything they don't like as fake news.

Make a joke about the President?

Fake News!


Fake News!

Reveal a hidden truth about the government?

Fake News!

Do you see where I'm going with this?

That's why, using the example of the 5 Egyptian women who have been arrested for their TikTok videos (it's two popular women with millions of TikTok and Instagram followers along with their social media accounts managers), it's important to pay close attention to every regulation's fine print to uncover that what might appear as a gift (horse), might be a Trojan Horse that will unleash a planned attack on citizens at a later stage.

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Egypt has sentenced 5 women to 2 years in jail for their TikTok videos

Five women have been sentenced to 2 years in jail in Egypt over their TikTok videos. The five women were also fined 300,000 Egyptian pounds (approximately $19,000) for their TikTok videos which Egyptian authorities said were "violating the values and principles of the Egyptian family, inciting debauchery and promoting human trafficking." Since Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, became Egypt's president, it appears the motive behind the social media regulation law was more to censor the media and restrict people's rights to express themselves than to curb fake news. [Article]

If Microsoft is successful in buying TikTok, it will be a loss for users

In what seems to be a common occurrence, the Chinese video-sharing app, TikTok, is once again in the headlines. A deal is being negotiated between TikTok’s parent company ByteDance and Microsoft to sell TikTok to the Seattle headquartered technology company. Microsoft’s acquisition may introduce fresh concerns about the US government’s influence over TikTok. [Article]

Tech journalism is less diverse than tech

This is good research and analysis by Oo Nwoye (Oo The Nigerian). He pulls out empirical facts to prove that tech journalism across the West lacks diversity, so much so that it is worse than the very companies they regularly attack for not being diverse, the irony. The numbers:  982 people, 14 media outlets, 80% white, 2% Black, 18% other. I would even take it a step further and say that if you ran the same research and data analysis in South African tech media, the ratios would probably be the same (except iAfrikan of course). I'm not too bothered by racial issues but isn't it ironic that in an African country the ratio is probably the same? [Report]

Competition to reward Cameroon's best technology projects

The second edition of Cameroon’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Innovation Week will take place from 24 – 28 August 2020. One final project will be picked from the shortlist of 15 and the project owner will be awarded a special prize of the President of the Republic, Paul Biya on 28 August 2020. The other shortlisted projects will also have rewards and will benefit from government support so that they can fully develop. [Article]

How podcasting became a multi-billion dollar industry

An old adage holds that if you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made. If the big podcasting platforms figure that one out we will all be the poorer. Podcasting’s special ingredients have long been the authenticity of its wide range of voices and the intimate relationship they engender with the audience, speaking directly into our ears. If those defining characteristics get subverted in a push for profit, much of podcasting’s magic will be lost. [Article]

Quote of the day

Pay close attention to every tech policy's fine print to uncover that what might appear as a gift (horse), might be a Trojan Horse that will unleash a planned attack on citizens at a later stage. (Tweet this)

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