Egyptian TikTok influencers convicted of 'human trafficking' sparking outcry
Five women TikTok influencers were convicted of human trafficking in Egypt on Sunday for content posted on the social media app, according to local reports.
Cairo Criminal Court sentenced popular TikTok stars Haneen Hossam, 20, and Mawada Eladhm, 22, and three other people for encouraging young women to join and post content on the video-sharing platform Likee, in exchange for money.
Hossam was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay 200,0000 Egyptian pounds (around $12,800) and Eladhm, along with the three other women, were given six-year prison sentences and a 200,000 pound fine.
The conviction accused them of "using girls in acts contrary to the principles and values of Egyptian society with the aim of gaining material benefits".
Hossam and Eladhm reject the charges.
Amnesty International condemned the conviction of the women in a statement sent to The New Arab.
"Women TikTok influencers are being punished for the way they dress, act, influence on social media, and earn money online. This is part of the authorities' attempts to control cyberspace by policing women’s bodies and conduct," said Amnesty International researcher Hussein Baoumi.
The two women were made famous by the social media app for posting videos of lip sync battles and dances, like many others their age across the world. Hossam now has 1.2 million followers on TikTok and Eladhm has 3.1 million.
The latest conviction follows a previous case against Hossam and Eladhm last year, who were accused of violating Egyptian "family values" under the country's notorious cybercrime laws.
The charges against Hossam were dropped and Eladhm’s prison sentence was overturned earlier this year.
A number of TikTok influencers have been arrested and charged with undermining "family values" under Egypt's cybercrime law, which allows authorities to monitor internet content and users.
From April to July 2020 around nine TikTok influencers were arrested in Egypt, the majority of them young women.
Campaigns from women and human rights groups have condemned the penalisation of these internet users, arguing that women are disproportionately targeted and that laws contain controversial legal codes such as "violating family values".