Egypt activists outraged over spate of Twitter suspensions against anti-Sisi accounts

Egypt activists outraged over spate of Twitter suspensions against anti-Sisi accounts
Egyptians activists have said that dozens of anti-Sisi accounts have been suspended by Twitter in the wake of protests against the Egyptian president's rule.
3 min read
02 October, 2019
Dozens of activist accounts have been reportedly suspended [Twitter]
Egyptian activists have raised concerns over a spate of Twitter suspensions, accusing the social media giant of actin on the orders from President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the wake of rare protests against his rule last month.

Demonstrations erupted in Egypt last month after a series of viral videos by a former regime insider alleged widespread corruption and misappropriation of public funds sparked mass outrage.

Social media users are calling for an official investigation by Twitter after multiple popular activists saw their accounts on the network suspended over the past 24 hours.

Among those subject to suspensions - some lasting hours, some ongoing - include human rights activist Hend Nafea, journalist Ahmad Hasan al-Sharqawi, and an artist known as Ganzeer whose image depicting Sisi as a thief has become widely used in the recent protests.

"I am filing a formal complaint to [Human Rights Watch] that Twitter's targeting #Arab activists," wrote Amr Abd Elhady, a member of the opposition National Conscience Front, said on Tuesday. "I was posting about this violation one hour ago, when my account [got] locked again."

Abd Elhady claims to have lost more than 500,000 followers due to the suspension.

Several Egyptian activists have blamed the spate of suspensions on Twitter's Middle East and North Africa office, which operates out of Dubai. The UAE is a key backer of Egypt's Sisi.

"It's a mass suspension with no reasonable reason, after the call for a million-man-arch [tomorrow] in Egypt," Twitter user Hesham Mohamed said.

"They're just scared to death, and unfortunately it seems like twitter is no longer our free space of expressing our thoughts being controlled by [the government] in many occasions."

Amr Khalifa, a political commentator who said his account had been suspended and re-activiated on Tuesday, linked the suspensions to users of the hashtag #TakingToTheStreetsAtThree.

The trending hashtag was derived from calls for protests on Tuesday afternoon by Mohamed Ali, the former military contractor whose viral video allegations of corruption by Sisi and the military sparked anger last month.

Ganzeer said that Twitter officials had blamed his supensions on hashtag use.

"The excuses they gave me are half-assed and false at best," the artist wrote, detailing the reasons for their supensions as including "using a trending or popular hashtag with an intent to subvert or manipulate a conversation" and "tweeting with excessive, unrelated hashtags".

Others have blamed the suspensions on organised troll accounts systematically reporting accounts opposing Egypt's Sisi.

Twitter has yet to publicly acknowledge the suspensions.

Thousands arrested

Thousands of Egyptians took to the streets on Friday to protest against Sisi's regime in Giza, Alexandria, Qena, Luxor, Minya, Sohag and parts of Cairo.

Dubbed "Friday of Salvation" by online activists, the protests mark the second week in a row Egyptians have made rare public demonstrations against the government currently marred by allegations of vast corruption, highlighted by a rogue military contractor.

Egyptian businessman-turned-viral video sensation Mohamed Ali of squandering billions on lavish palaces and army residences, while a third of the Egyptian population live in poverty.

Protesters took to the streets despite a vast security campaign deployed last week, which has so far arrested at least 2,285 suspected of taking part in the demonstrations.