Stop the New Internet Law in Lebanon

For a long time now, whenever anyone started talking about the relative openness of the Net in Lebanon, people have shushed each other or touched wood, so as not to jinx our one very important advantage over the rest of the region: we have very little restrictions on how we use the machine. Wouldn’t you know, these superstitious acts now seem to have lost their power.

We don’t know many details yet, but there’s a ghastly Internet/information law before parliament in Lebanon that certain parties are trying to push through. A scanned copy of the law, written in Arabic, was posted on Slideshare yesterday. If you can read Arabic or know anything about the law, please go and comment and/or translate a bit:

Draft ICT Law

View more documents from gdeek.

A Facebook page has also been created, with the following ominous description and call to action:

Oppressive ICT Law passed Common Committees today in the Lebanese Parliament

The Deputy Speaker of the House forbids MP’s from discussing the 200+ articles text and did not allow any questions and answers among them.

Lebanese People I call on you to react. They are pushing us back to the middle ages.

Please Like the Page, subscribe to http://blog.gabrieldeek.com/ and follow @stopthislaw on Twitter to keep up with developments. Also, if you can volunteer to translate parts of the law, please get in touch or leave a comment with a way for us to reach you.

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17 Responses to Stop the New Internet Law in Lebanon

  1. Monah Khalil June 15, 2010 at 5:10 am #

    With all due respect, you guys don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve went through the entire proposed legislation and there’s nothing in the content that infer any privacy concerns for end users. The law is meant to regulate the operation of service providers such as Digital Certificate issuers such SSL certificate, signing certificates, encryption certificates which are used for building eCommerce websites. It also regulate how eCommerce website operators are handling YOUR private information (for example making sure that databases are protected from hackers or are misused by an employees of the company) and would penalize companies for mishandling this information. The government would not have access to your facebook account; first of facebook servers are hosted outside lebanon and the operators of facebook do not fall within the jurisdiction of the Lebanese government to surrender any information, and second if and when your information is stolen you’ll be more than grateful that now you can sue the person or organization that is responsible for that mishap.

    This is not the big talk about oppresive goverments against free rebellious youth. It’s about a government years away from catching up with the rest of the world in terms of making sure that when you’re giving out your credit card to some Lebanese bank or Internet operator that they take some responsibility and do all the due diligence at least to protect that information, and to compensate you if they commit serious violations on how to handle data. Also that means the operators need to surrender logs that can track down hackers and using these logs in the court of law.

    So please be responsible enough to discuss issues in an objective, mature way rather than organizing yet another immature facebook campaign to just say NO.

  2. Saad Atallah June 15, 2010 at 9:07 am #

    Any restrictions or control on Media in Lebanon, whoever practices it, is an apartheid phenomenon, and an annihilation of the human basic existence, especially in a stateless state like Lebanon, where economic anarchy and political disarray are the daily bread of the neglected common Lebanese.

  3. Monah Khalil June 15, 2010 at 9:27 am #

    are you done with the rhetoric yet?

  4. Jessica June 15, 2010 at 9:46 am #

    @Monah, Thanks for your comment. Because we’ve had very little time to organize, we have focused on one message: Postpone the vote, pending review and comment by stakeholders in the law.

    To date, little to no comment has been allowed by the private sector, though they have prepared comments, or by civil society organizations like us. We were told that the draft law was submitted to NGOs six months ago for review and that the law was put on the agenda because they received no comments. None of the several NGOs we’ve asked ever received a copy of the law.

    Second, while SMEX is handling a lot of the communications effort, because of the nature of our work, we’re not doing it alone. In fact, this 24-hour campaign came about when Gabriel Deek, head of the Professional Computer Association, started his blog, http://www.gabrieldeek.com and Facebook group to mobilize around the issue.

    We had heard about an e-banking law, but didn’t know much more, so when he posted the law on his blog and then translated parts of it, is when we started to understand that, yes, while the first 69 articles are generally seen as constructive changes and deal with the issues you mention, there are some very worrisome articles between 70-92 (read our later posts to see the articles with translation). All we want is the chance to have a discussion about them, which was not allowed even among deputies when the law passed out of committee just last week.

    Finally, we and the online community are by no means the only supporters. We did not do a petition because of time constraints, but perhaps we should have. Several other organizations (ISOC, PCA, WIT, An Nahar, RootSpace) and individuals knowledgeable about the development of the law since 2004 are also working to postpone the vote.

    MPs are listening, and what’s more we’re realizing that many of them haven’t read or aren’t familiar with the law, or at least not recently, since it was rushed through last week. Again, we’re asking for postponement pending comment. As you know, once a law is a law, it’s very hard to go back. Letting it pass unscrutinized by the people who will have to abide by it is what seems irresponsible to me.

  5. Monah Khalil June 15, 2010 at 10:35 am #

    As a matter of fact, several other countries including but not limited to the US and India have similar legislations which allow the government access to information systems and authority to audit and review data management and privacy policies.
    Remember when a government requires access to information, the government will eventually get it. What we’re missing is protecting end users when they entrust their data to private business and operators when they hit the submit button to get some assurance that these companies are accountable to safeguarding this data.

    Please see India IT Act 2008 section 69 on page 12
    http://www.mit.gov.in/sites/upload_files/dit/files/downloads/itact2000/it_amendment_act2008.pdf
    and US E-Privacy Act “S.2067 — Encryption Protects the Rights of Individuals from Violation and Abuse in CYberspace (E-PRIVACY) Act “, section 104:
    http :// thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c105:S.2067:

  6. Jessica June 15, 2010 at 10:52 am #

    Thanks, Monah, for the references. Again, the first half of the law does institute many of these internationally accepted practices. But Articles 70-92 create an authority with broad powers and very little oversight. Further, the law defines electronic services very vaguely, leaving the matter open for interpretation depending on whose interests are involved. It’s a short path from here to places I won’t mention.

    That said, if our reading of the law is wrong, shouldn’t people at least be allowed to ask questions and to provide comment?

    In the US and India cases, remember that their citizens also have the right of access to information, so that, among other things, the people can act as a check on what the government is doing with information they collect. Right now in Lebanon, that is also a draft law. Perhaps parliament should consider putting that draft law on the agenda before passing this one? See http://www.a2ilebanon.org for more information about the draft access to information law, as well as a proposal for a whistleblower protection law.

    FInally, as someone who regularly identifies and reports (futilely) Lebanese spammers through ‘WhoIs’ lookups, I agree wholeheartedly that “What we’re missing is protecting end users when they entrust their data to private business and operators when they hit the submit button to get some assurance that these companies are accountable to safeguarding this data,” but I don’t think it comes at the expense of an authority over which there are no checks and balances.

  7. Saad Atallah June 15, 2010 at 11:02 am #

    Dear, your current speedy response is a sheer evidence to how you would show respect to ohers’ points of view if this law were ratified!!! My debate with you ends here.

  8. Tony June 15, 2010 at 10:37 pm #

    Have you ever noticed the condition mentioned in the general terms & conditions for DSL users under “Usage of the Service, section 4”, in which a customer agrees not to use the service for any kind of services not authorized by the” Minister of Telecommunication”. So please don’t be stunned, as more restrictions are to follow as long as people agree to give a Minister in person the right to solely control their conduct according to his own norms and culture.
    So, keep trying to change things in Lebanon, but you’ll always find that despite your efforts, nothing changes. Wonder why? It’s because we’re all trying to improve rules and not rulers.

  9. BK June 20, 2010 at 2:26 pm #

    If you still need someone to translate, i’ll be glad to help you! Contact me @ basil.karam@gmail.com

  10. Amer Saidi June 23, 2010 at 3:02 pm #

    I just read through large parts of the above text and I will say the following:

    – It has some advantages and some major disadvantages. Advantages might include citizens no longer being taken advantage of by spammers or unscrupulous Ebusinesses, while disadvantages include the limits it puts on our own freedom and privacy.

    – Personally, I support a law to organize the online sector in Lebanon, but not one like this, because this one goes too far. For example, it gives the state the power to look through our online records/profiles at any time. That should not be legal, even if it happens in India/US, etc. The US is not an example to me.

    – I should also point out that more red tape and government intervention will only harm business and economic activity.

    – Finally, I have to say that if our government is to protect us from everyone and everything, what is to protect from our government? Lebanon has a tradition of relative freedom in the Middle East, and we must not lose it.

  11. Shirley September 15, 2010 at 10:59 pm #

    This lady is comparing Lebanon to India and the US (famous for racial profiling) frggin awesome how you handled the argument! It’s about time to get the issue put out on the table! 🙂

  12. buy touch up paint for cars June 16, 2012 at 11:41 pm #

    Just a couple of questions: Are the poor not entitled to have their stories told whether good, bad or indifferent? Cinema is such an expensive medium that the poor are not likely ever to be able to tell their stories or their fantasies for themselves.Does India belong only to the middle-class do not the poor have a right to an aesthtetic space ?

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