A popular gay social networking application said Friday that it is issuing a warning to its users in Egypt, as police impersonate community members to target LGBTQ+ individuals. Rights groups and media have reported recently that authorities in the wider region are increasingly taking to digital platforms to act against the LGBTQ+ community. Although it technically does not outlaw homosexuality, Egypt frequently prosecutes members of the LGBTQ+ community on the grounds of "debauchery," or "violating public decency." In 2017, it arrested seven for raising a rainbow flag at a rock concert. And arrests of homosexuals and gender non-conforming individuals remain common, the AP reports.
Users in Egypt will see the following warning appear in Arabic and English when they open the app: "We have been alerted that Egyptian police is actively making arrests of gay, bi, and trans people on digital platforms. They are using fake accounts and have also taken over accounts from real community members who have already been arrested and had their phones taken. Please take extra caution online and offline, including with accounts that may have seemed legitimate in the past." A government media officer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A dating app for the gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community, California-based Grindr has faced criticism in the US and been fined in Norway for sharing personal data with third parties that could identify users.
In February, Human Rights Watch released a report documenting dozens of cases of security agencies in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Tunisia extorting, harassing, publicly outing, and detaining LGBTQ+ people based on their activities on Facebook and Instagram, as well as the dating app Grindr. The publication also questioned major tech companies for not investing sufficiently in Arabic-language content moderation and protection. "Grindr is working with groups on the ground in Egypt to make sure our users have up to date information on how to stay safe, and we are pushing international organizations and governments to demand justice and safety for the Egyptian LGBTQ community," a Grindr spokesperson said Friday.
(Read more Grindr