TikTok has been the theatre of several controversies and scandals over the past few years and is now under the spotlight again for supposedly inciting debauchery within Egyptian society. This is not the first time that the Chinese video-sharing platform has been pointed at, as many governments and politicians have repeatedly made their stance regarding Vine’s heir quite explicitly clear.
We reported last year on how Egyptian officials had already been cracking against the country’s own content creators as many hefty and lengthy sentences had been handed out to several influential and popular users. We recall Sama El-Masy’s conviction in June 2020, by a Cairene court, to three years in prison following videos deemed to be going against Egyptian societal norms and moral values.
Again, Sama’s case is not anything unusual. This month, a criminal court within the country’s capital put on trial and sentenced two other Tiktok influencers to 6 and 10 years in prison over alleged human trafficking-related charges. Gathering millions of subscribers combined, Mawada al-Adham, 23, and Haneen Hossam, 20, were both tried for allegedly “using girls in acts contrary to the principles and values of Egyptian society with the aim of gaining material benefits”.
The two young women had already been acquitted in January for a similar case and were invited back for allegedly taking advantage of people from disadvantaged economic backgrounds for financial and material gain. Both defendants have argued that their content had largely been taken out of context and was only following trends that were circulating on the platform at that time.
This wave of sentences has sparked massive outrage online with many public figures pointing at Egypt’s cybercrime and moral laws for being unfair, unclear and too broad. Mainly targeting working-class women, these new condemnations have also sparked debates regarding the difference in treatment between both genders regarding these matters in Egypt as many male equivalents have yet to be put on trial for similar offences or even crimes involving rape, assault and harassment.
As the crackdown continues, will Egypt still manage to retain its position as beacon hub for Arab culture amidst these unprecedented times?