Thursday 26 May 2016

Algeria: Online harassment on the rise

International laws agree on the classification of online harassment as a cybercrime that deserves to be punished even though the type of punishment varies from one law to another. Most developed countries agree technically and electronically on considering this kind of crime as deviant behavior and have implemented procedures and laws criminalizing harassers who are using the internet as a tool to bother others. The situation is still blurred in the Arab world in general and Algeria in particular from a cultural and legislative point of view.

Online harassment is a phenomenon that emerged with the development of electronic means of communication and increased with the advent of social media. Online harassment is the use of electronic media and the internet in intentionally disturbing others individually or collectively in several forms: as persecution, defamation, or sending messages that disturb the receiver, whether the message content is sexual or inappropriate, contains insults, pictures of the person published without his knowledge, threats or blackmail, spyware or abusive tracking, defamatory comments through various electronic means, or if it impersonates his identity on social media.

According to IT news Africa website statistics, Algeria took the fifth position in Africa in using Facebook, where males from 18 to 24 years old are the majority, with a rate of 68% compared to 32% of females(1). Web use in Algeria is so extensive that it has become an active component of citizenship, which is what concerns international organizations and e-crimes companies, as some reports revealed that Algeria is one of the top Arab and African countries for cybercrime.

Thus, many Algerian jurists say that the Algerian legislature protects individual freedom through several legal articles in the penal code. As Ben Attaf Bashir explained “electronic crime today is more sophisticated than the legislation itself, and technological development compels us to enact new laws for the protection of individual privacy on the internet.” He added, “The fact that some internet users leave many personal details about their personal lives on social media makes it easier for hackers to carry out their crimes smoothly.”

Algerian lawyer Fatima ben Brahem says that Algeria is still behind in terms of laws and programs to combat online harassment. “We still have not reached a high level of technological development that enables us to measure online crime and limit it by a defined law”.

The lawyer added that Algerian courts often do not take into account crimes related to technology because of the absence of a formal proof of the perpetrators, especially when it is about “talk” in online calling, as it is classified as intention to do the crime and not as a proof of the crime despite several cases of electronic harassment that were registered by Algerian citizens.

The Algerian lawyer said that several complaints have been received about threats and insults but courts did not consider the cases because Algeria doesn’t have a law that allows lawyers to refer to talking on the phone to verify information. The call is not proof in itself; it is just the means and to turn it into a proof we have to listen to the dialogue registered between the sender and the receiver. This technique is so far limited only to the organ of national defense and we as lawyers we cannot have access to them, so we cannot take this kind of crime cases.

Algeria still behind in term of technology use. The West is not using paper anymore, and is satisfied in using technology (applications, e-banking, and so on…) for everything. However, in Algeria, electronic paper has yet to be accepted. If you have to get a document from the municipality it has to have a stamp in red ink. This is silly - how is it possible to stop cybercrime in this situation? The issue is primarily technological and needs intensive efforts by a multi-stakeholders in the IT field with the help of other national bodies. We have to spread awareness about electronic culture first, as cybercrime is touching everybody and it is an issue for everyone, not only judges and lawyers.

Rim Hayat Chaif, Algerian Journalist and Blogger


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