Egypt, parliament
Egyptian parliament to discuss controversial bill Source: Masr Alarabia

Egypt's parliament is set to discuss a draft law on imposing a monthly subscription fee on social media users, particularly Facebook, in a bid to curb cybercrime in the country, local media reported.

With Egypt currently in a state of high alert following the two terrorist attacks that targeted churches in Alexandria and Tanta on Palm Sunday, and which left at least 49 people dead, the bill would "help the government to monitor cyber crimes and restrict any users, pages or posts that damage Egypt’s reputation, contribute to the dissemination of fake news or incite people against public peace and national unity," Egypt Independent reported.

The numbers aren't clear yet

According to media reports, the subscription fee would be 200 Egyptian pounds - a claim that MP Reyad Abdel Sattar, when speaking to Egypt Independent, refuted, saying the fees would be closer to 5 Egyptian pounds. 

Abdel Sattar is behind the bill and has been working to have it discussed in parliament for some time now. 

It will be "difficult" to implement

MP Ahmed Badawy, head of the Telecommunications and Information Committee, clarified in an official statement on Sunday that the feasibility of actualizing this subscription fee would be "difficult". 

"We want to reassure citizens that we have no intention to impose fees on Facebook users in Egypt," he said, according to Masr al Arabia

But people are still concerned

Several social media users and activists expressed their concern in light of the news, raising questions about the cost of the suggested subscription fees and their effect on personal freedoms in Egypt. 

According to Egyptian Independent, many consider this bill as "yet another means to imposing more restrictions," noting that the government already has the ability to monitor Facebook. 

They cited a 2014 report by BuzzFeed News that claims the government of Egypt had signed an agreement with with a U.S.-based digital firm to monitor communications on social media outlets.

"See Egypt, the sister company of the U.S.-based Blue Coat, won the contract over the summer, beating out the British Gamma System, and the Israeli-founded Narus System. See Egypt has begun monitoring Egyptians’ online communications, according to several Egyptian government officials who spoke to BuzzFeed News," the report said.

Blue Coat distanced itself after the news was published, as did the Egyptian government. See Egypt has not issued a response to the story and its website had been removed.