Bahrain: Cybersex crimes to be criminalized

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The Kingdom of Bahrain is mulling a new law that would make cybersex crimes punishable and could lead fines of up to USD 260,000.

The law is targeted against internet users who attempt to extort money from young women by threatening to upload their private photos onto pornographic sites. Talking about the growing menace of cybersex crimes, First Lieutenant Mohammed Yousif Bu Ali, head of the Interior Ministry’s cyber crime unit, stated that “people create fake accounts on social media and start disclosing personal details of females and even post their pictures on pornographic or matrimonial sites. When it comes to individual cases that we deal with, the majority of them are related to social media abuses or theft mainly via Twitter and Facebook”.

According to a report based on cybersex offences in the kingdom, the incidents of young women and girls being targeted by sex predators and cyber criminals are on the rise. It is claimed that such cases have increased ten-fold over the past seven years. Around 200 cases are reported to the Interior Ministry’s cyber crime unit every year. An estimated 80 percent of the cases are reported by women, signaling that women need to be more vigilant in their online activities.

Cybersex crimes have increased during recent years owing to greater penetration of internet and popularity of social networking sites in the kingdom. Latest figures from research website suggest that Facebook penetration in Bahrain stands at around 55 percent, a growth of over 18 percent in the last six months.

Most of the laws regarding online activities in Gulf have focused on curbing dissent and content that defames religion. Social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, have remained central to public debate about tightening of state media controls. A recent proposal by the governments of UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to increase government vigilance over internet activities was recently defeated at a global telecommunication summit last year.

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