In a suspicious manner, on the evening of Monday, October 25, 2021, some social network activists appeared to us with two draft bills on cybercrimes and electronic transactions, dating back -as mentioned in the drafts- to the year 2018, and been put on the agenda of the Libyan House of Representatives in Al-Bayda for the session on Tuesday, October 26, 2021. The bill that passed by majority voting, is considered one of the few projects that have been discussed since the election of the parliament in 2014.
The inputs for the law dates to 2018 when the conflict was raging between the parties of the Libyan unrest, represented by The House of Representatives in the city of Al-Bayda, and The Libyan Arab Army (LNA) in the east. And The Government of National Accord (GNU) and the Libyan armed forces in the west. The conflict which has reflected on this reflected on social media content, which characterized by an increase in hate speech and mutual incitement, as well as the leakage of a number of indecent recordings and clips for members of the House of Representatives, in conjunction with leaks of bank statements and various phishing operations targeting Libyans during that period, all this coincided with the wave of cybercrime laws establishment in the region, especially in The Arab Republic of Egypt and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the strategic allies of east Libya camp, which contributed significantly on shaping the content of the bill and its current structure.
In the beginning, the legislator listed a set of loose definitions of various concepts such as piracy, encryption, which reminds me of the definitions of the antique computer-principles curriculum that is been taught at elementary schools. In the eyes of the legislator, cybercrime is all acts that violate the articles of this law and uses computer systems, the Internet, and other means of information technology As a means to it, followed by the legality of using all these techniques unless they result in a violation of public order and public morals or offend and harm others.
Where the legislator clarified the objectives of the law, limiting them to the protection of electronic - for which another bill was dedicated to this topic and was passed during the same session - and to limit the occurrence of the crimes and the adoption of their deterrent punishments in order to protect the public order and morals, also the national economy and achieve justice. and so that the purpose of the law extends to apply outside the Libyan territory, and let whoever contributes to violating these purposes be liable to accountability by the relevant Libyan authorities wherever they are. The law gives control and discretionary powers to the National Information Security & Safety Authority (NISSA) - the authority – that is affiliated with the General Authority for Communications and Informatics.
Pornography shaped an essential element of the articles of the law, as the legislator obligated the authority to prevent access (block) to websites and web pages that publish pornography and promotes Lewdness and immorality and any other materials that violate public morals in morals in an unrestricted manner, to include the TikTok mobile application, Netflix platform and other social platforms; To be punished by imprisonment and a fine not exceeding ten thousand dinars (2000 dollars) for anyone who produces these materials, circulates and preserves them, Including those leaked pornographic materials, such as the leaks of members of the Parliament itself. This is followed by an article dedicated to incitement to Lewdness, to punish the instigator here with imprisonment and not imprisonment and with the same monetary fine. The article goes on to criminalize the use of audio and photo editing applications unless with written consent from the owners of the original material. Modifying an original material to a pornographic one makes the modifier subject to punishment by imprisonment for a period of no less than five years, also noting that the exploitation of minors and those who are psychologically and mentally disabled in electronic pornographic material is criminalized. mandating the imprisonment of all who harass others for the sake of satisfying sexual desires. Articles (8, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23).
The legislator also gave the authority permission to monitor all that is published on the Internet and other digital systems, giving it the right to block what it deems to undermine the security and stability of society when necessary. and with a court order in the absence of an urgent security necessity. Those who Incite the destabilization of society’s security and stability via the Internet are subject to punishment of imprisonment for a period not less than one year and with the same fine charges. Including anyone who threatens or humiliates others based on their ethnic, religious, sectarian affiliation or “color,” or offends religious sanctities or rituals. Ordering imprisonment anyone who incites murder or suicide on the internet. Articles (7, 29, 30, 38, 42).
Terrorism and Money Laundering
The law punishes with life imprisonment anyone who contributes to the dissemination of information to a terrorist group under disguised names or helps in communicating with its leadership and members and promoting its ideas, including sharing any information on how to manufacture incendiary devices, explosives, and any tools used in acts prohibited by law. This way the legislator leaves the door wide open to include everyone who belongs to groups supported by the west Libya camp, which was previously included by the Parliament on the lists of terrorism, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, to be imprisoned for life in the line with this law. In the case of illegal money transfer, getting involved in its transactions, or hiding it while already knowing its illegal source, the perpetrator will be punished with imprisonment not exceeding seven years and a fine of not more than sixty thousand dinars (15,000 dollars). Articles (44, 45).
The legislator prohibits the process of affecting information technology systems and the Internet through various software with the intent of obtaining an unlawful benefit or harming others, depicting it as an illegal activity if the breach was intentional and without a permit or in violation of the permit, penalizing the person who commits these acts with a fine not exceeding five hundred dinars (100 dollars), aggravating it with imprisonment if the breach was with the intention of modifying, copying or destroying data, to increase the fine by no less than ten thousand dinars (2000 dollars). If the breach resulted in obstructing the work of the system or the Internet, the penalty is aggravated to be imprisonment in addition to the same monetary fine. In case that the intention was a materialistic benefit, the penalty is imprisonment and a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand dinars (20,000 dollars). In the case it was intended to disrupt government activities, the penalty is to imprison the person who illegally wiretaps individuals with the intent to obtain government, security, military, or banking secrets and to life imprisonment for sharing it on the Internet or enabling another party to obtain it. Articles (10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 34, 47).
The legislator criminalizes the possession, marketing, or importation of any encryption means without a license from the authority. The encryption that the law defines loosely, is any encoding process of electronic data that makes it impossible to read or interpret without deciphering it to its original form. this includes the usage of virtual private networks (VPN) which is considered illegal by this definition, penalizing anyone who possesses such tools with imprisonment and fine not exceeding one hundred thousand dinars (20,000 dollars), and imprisonment for a period of not less than ten years with a fine not exceeding one hundred and fifty thousand dinars (30,000 dollars) for using these tools against the government, banks, military or security organizations. Additionally, any decoding process for illegal purposes shall also be punished by imprisonment for a period of no less than one year and a fine of no more than ten thousand dinars (2000 dollars). Articles (9, 14, 39).
The law sought to preserve the intellectual property of the Libyan content published on the Internet and any other system in general, considering any infringer to be accountable without any regard to the terms and conditions of the publishing platforms they use, promising every copyright infringer with a
placing each violator in a cage of accountability without regard to the laws and conditions of use of online publishing platforms, promising each infringer of imprisonment for a year and a fine of no more than ten thousand dinars ( 2000 dollars), and the same penalty for replicating electronic signatures or digital works whether literary or artistic or who pirates any of software or sells them. The penalty is reduced to imprisonment and a fine of no more than five thousand dinars (1,000 dollars) to whoever impersonates a trademark registered in the state whether governmental or non-governmental. Articles (6, 24, 25, 26, 46).
The law criminalizes with various penalties the use of the Internet and information technology systems for trafficking in antiquities, the promotion or advertising of alcohol and intoxicants, as well as the promotion of narcotics and psychotropic substances, also including sharing manufacturing instructions production. The law goes forward to also include anyone who used the Internet and information technology systems for human trafficking activities. Articles (27, 32, 33, 43).
In general, the law is characterized by a fragmented structure, with a scattering of terminology and lose definitions, which provides the authority and other regulatory and judicial authorities with broad freedom in understanding and applying its laws in a way that contributes to silencing the mouths of citizens and to flagrant violation of their privacy and freedoms. The law also did not clarify which judicial authority is specialized and dedicated to dealing with these cybercrimes. Going further to criminalize anyone who had knowledge of one of these crimes and did not report it to have punishment for an act of threatening security or public safety without any details. The law also attempts to cover some aspects of electronic payments in a distorted way.
Unfortunately, the legislator did not bother consulting specialists or benefiting from the world’s experiences in combating cybercrime, to come up with this flawed and distorted law, and its approval was only for purely political motives. A law that has nothing to do with the reality of the Libyan cyberspace and its peculiarity, with multiple contradictions of the General Penal Code in the case of the practice of the same actions in the real world and not in cyberspace. Hoping that civil society activists and those interested in the field and its professionals will be able to convey their voice to the relevant authorities to reconsider the law in line with the best experiences and lessons learned around the world and the region.
This blogpost is a translation by Annir's team for the original blogpost in Arabic.
Note: dinar refers to the Libyan dinar, and dollar refers the US dollar, and the exchange rate of the dinar to the dollar is according to the official rate announced by the Central Bank of Libya, rounded to the nearest one.
a social entrepreneur from Libya, works on ICT for Development and Social Innovation, studying his master on eGovernance at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, passionate about technology and its applications, advocates for digital transformation and good governance.
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