Sisibook: Egypt to launch Facebook rival 'to fight terrorism'
Egyptian authorities have announced they are developing an online platform to rival social media giant Facebook in a bid to "combat terrorism", local media has reported.
Egypt's communications minister revealed the project on Monday, sparking a wave of mockery on already established social platforms and concerns.
"Egypt will soon have its own social media platform, which will be a competitor to Facebook," Yasser al-Qadi told a conference in Cairo.
"After the January 25 revolution, extremist groups have been able to attract young people with personality disorders, using technological means. So we have to control these platforms," Qadi said.
The minister failed to provide further details on Cairo's Facebook competitor.
Twitter users used an Arabic-language hashtag to come up with suggested names for the platform, with humorous proposals such as "spybook" and "we-will-arrest-you-book".
Other users expressed concerns that the government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will use the social media website to gather information on users to aid security forces in their already far-reaching crackdown on dissent.
Egypt has clamped down on activists online and censored hundreds of websites since Sisi came to power in 2013 following a military takeover against former president Mohammed Morsi.
"The policemen check your phone, they watch your Facebook and if you keep opposition-related materials, they can easily arrest you," blogger Wael Abbas told The New Arab.
"They are also using hackers to interfere in the accounts of people working with political prisoners and human rights associations. Everyone knows that our government even bought softwares from Europe in order to spy on us," Abbas added.
Since May last year, authorities have blocked at least 496 websites belonging to leading media organisations, including The New Arab, and civil society groups.
Human Right Watch, whose website has also been blocked in Egypt, has condemned the concorship as an attempt to "crush peaceful dissent".
Social media played a pivotal role in Egypt during the 2011 uprising that ousted longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak.
Since 2013, Egyptian authorities have sentenced hundreds to death and arrested tens of thousands following the military coup. Sisi has overseen the crackdown.
Though Islamists have been largely targeted in the sweep, secularists and pro-democracy activists have also been jailed.
Sisi has dismissed widespread criticism from rights groups, arguing that Western standards of human rights do not apply in Egypt.