The Lebanese online community celebrated on June 15 the temporary victory of postponing a vote in parliament on the new proposed E-transactions law for an extra month.
The outrage online started when Gabriel Deek(Secretary General of the Professional Computer Association of Lebanon) posted the draft of the law(Ar) online (Some articles were translated to English). He explained the major “pain points” in the law:
The ESSA (Electronic Signatures and Services Authority) was established under this law with discretionary, selective, subjective and very broad and unjustified powers, beyond the objectives of the law and its functions. Its prerogatives are almost repressive for all “service providers” of electronic services and economic sectors at large.
ESSA staff are given the powers of law enforcement (ضابطة العدلية), without any judicial oversight.
A number of relevant ministries such as Ministry of Economy, Telecommunications and Finance are marginalized with a clear conflict of powers with the ESSA.
ESSA is given regulatory powers, and operational powers meaning that it can regulate and operate at the same time.
This will result in a negative impact on the economic activity and investment panorama
The law passed Common Committees in the Lebanese Parliament and the private sector wasn't allowed to comment. Deek called for action:
Shame on you Lebanese Parliament.
Lebanese People I call on you to react. They are pushing us back to the middle ages. On-line community this is against you I am counting on your help to oppose stupidity and ignorance …
Responding to the call, Social Media Exchange (SMEX) held an emergency meeting to discuss the law and prepared to block the vote on Tuesday (June 15). The following day, a public call to actionwas published online and the blogosphere responded. Below are some of the reactions from the blogs:
Lebanese blogger Mir wrote about The “New” Lebanon law:
This law, if passed, will take us backward in time and will drive all foreign investments away (Can you think of any sane tech company willing to operate under the following conditions? Google, Facebook offices in Lebanon – dream on !). This is simply like looking up to a light at the end of a very dark long tunnel only to find out that the source of this light is a burning fire that you can’t even avoid.
Imad Bazzi who blogs at Trella was furious with the law. He wrote(Ar):
الأجدر بالدولة اللبنانية تقديم خدمة الإنترنت قبل محاولتها تنظيمها، قدموا لنا الإنترنت أولاً ثم نظموه، او في اتعس الأحوال نظموه وقدموا لنا خدمة إنترنت عادية، اما ان تحتكروه وتحرقوا دينه ولا تعطونا شيئاً فهو محض غباء وإستعباد لن نستطيع السكوت عنه بعد الآن.
The Lebanese government should work on the internet service itself before trying to regulate it. Give us Internet first and then regulate it. Or in worst cases, regulate it and give us the average internet service. But to monopolize and give us nothing is simply stupid; And we will not be silent about it.
Qifa Nabki wondered about the reason of passing such a law. He wrote in his post “Missed Call Nation“:
The only thing I can think of as a possible explanation for this move is the notion that Nahhas1 is trying to circumvent the likely loss of telephone revenue once Lebanon receives fiber optic upgrades in the next couple of months. The upgrades will enhance internet speeds, making it easier for people to Skype their Teta to get her recipe for koosa mi7sheh (stuffed zucchini) 2… unless Skype is banned.
Dany Awad called for action too to defend the only free air left in Lebanon. He wrote(Ar):
وكأن لم يعد لديهم شئ يفعلونه غير الانترنت، انتهت ازمه الكهرباء. واصبحنا نصدرها لقبرص. جسورنا اصبحت تضاهي جسور اوروبا.. اصبحنا البلد الاقل تلوثاً.. زعمائنا حصلوا علي نوبل للسلام ونعم نحن اصحاب اكبر صحن حمص وياااه نسيت ان اخبركم ان رئيسنا لديه صفحه على الفيس بوك
لم يعد لدينا هواء حريه نتنفسه سوى هنا، بهذا الفضاء.. لنفعل شيئاً للحفاظ على آخر ما نملك من فتات حريه
As if they had nothing else to do but the internet. The electricity crisis is over, we're even now exporting it to Cyprus. Our bridges are competing with Europe's. We're now one of the least polluted countries. Our leaders have received Nobel Peace prizes. And yes, we have the largest Hummus plate in the world. And I forgot to tell you that our president has a Facebook page.
We don't have a free air to breath but this one, in this cyberspace..Let's do something about it to preserve what we have left of Freedom.
More reactions were published online and are aggregated here. Blogger nightS also saved the related links online to her Delicious account under the tag essa.
The response to the call of action payed off on June 15 when the vote on the law was postponed for a month, giving the private sector and civil society a chance to work on making it a law that's actually good for the country.
Jessice at Social Media Exchange wrote about the whole process of stopping the law. She also added quick statistics about the immediate campaign and its effect:
Here’s what we’ve counted so far:
- Number of blogposts: 20
- Number of newspaper articles, print and online: 4
- Number of inquiries for future TV stories: 3
- Number of inquiries from international press: 4
- Total number of tweets using the #stopthislaw hashtag: 594
- Number of tweets from yesterday till now using the #stopthislaw hashtag: 447 (according to search.twitter.com, advanced search)
- Total number of Likes on Stop This Law Facebook page: 625 and growing fast
- Growth since yesterday at 8 p.m.: 350
- Growth since I started writing this post: 45
And to waste no more time, Mohamad (at SMEX too) posted a thank you letter and an invitation to the meeting that is going to be held today (June 18) to discuss the next steps regarding the e-transactions law.
Stay tuned to the Facebook page and the Twitter hashtag #stopthislaw for more information and updates.
1 The Lebanese Minister of Telecommunications
2 A Lebanese Food