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Egypt plans social media tax

Egypt plans to impose a tax system on online advertising and social media websites

Egypt plans to impose a tax system on online advertising and social media websites, the New Arab reported the deputy finance minister saying.

Riyad Abdel Sattar said that Facebook and Twitter users should pay a monthly registration fee which will enable the state to monitor online activity.

Lawmaker John Talaat said members of parliament should actually be pushing for lower internet costs because of the bad service. Egypt's broadband speed is ranked among the slowest in the world.

The tax is unlikely to be popular with Egyptians who are already struggling with the high cost of living. Fuel and electricity prices have soared following an austerity programme put in place in exchange for a 2016 IMF loan.

Since 2014 the Egyptian government has developed a mass surveillance system to monitor social media sites including people's private messages.

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A 2018 law stipulated that social media users, blogs and personal websites with over 5,000 followers could be blocked and banned by the state. Over 500 news sites have been blocked.

In October the government targeted 33 Egyptians through apps which said they were providing an information service but which actually bugged their phones.

During the September protests access to Facebook Messenger and Twitter was intermittent.

Last month the Egyptian whistleblower Mohamed Ali told MEMO that he built part of the intelligence headquarters where the government's cyber army was housed.

In Lebanon news that the government would start charging $6 per month for WhatsApp as well as a tax on internet call services such as Facebook Messenger and FaceTime prompted protests across the country.

The tax was the final straw for Lebanese people living through an economic crisis and struggling for decades with widespread corruption and nepotism.

READ: Rights activist reappears in Egypt after 167 days of forcible disappearance

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