This article was extracted from a twitter thread by @almaleekaah
If you have an account on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere, this might lead you to being imprisoned or fined in a way, even if you were unaware of what you were doing, or did not intend to do so. In addition, you should know how to retain your rights by law in the event of trespassing on social media platforms.
The reason behind this thread is an incident that stopped me a few days ago. An online user posted a phone number of a university student, accompanied by a voice recording belonging to that same student. Regardless of the content of the audio recording being true or false in that post, the incident has hurt the student and her family, based on the apology that was subsequently published. The story has spread to the public, and people reacted differently.
Many of us are aware of the Sudanese Cybercrime Act of 2007, which includes thirty articles specialized in crimes related to the use of computers, mobile phones and other electronic devices. Here, I would like to address incidents that take place on social media platforms, and are perceived by many as normal and frequent.
First, according to Article 17 of the law, using your personal account to defame a person by posting their information, their personal accounts, telephone number, address or other personal information, can be penalized with imprisonment for maximum of two years, a fine, or both. Increasing and decreasing the implementation of the penalty is determined according to the case itself and its dimensions.
“Defamation of reputation
17. Anyone who uses information network, a computer network, or similar devices to defame reputation shall be punished by imprisonment for a maximum of two years, a fine, or both. "
Moreover, the participation or incitement of such behaviors are also punishable by the same penalty of defamation, or by half the sentence once proven.
"Incitement, arranging or engaging
23. (1) Those who fall under “The Perpetrator” of the offense include anyone who has encouraged, assisted, agreed or participated with others in committing any of the offenses listed in this Act. If the crime is not achieved, half of the penalty is executed.”
(2) If the crime is committed as a result of that incitement, the instigator shall be punished by the same penalty as is set for it. "
With regard to article 16 on the violation of private life and abusing religious beliefs, this exposes you to imprisonment for up to three years, or a fine, or both. Examples of such: photographing people in their homes or in public places without consent, even if the people photographed are committing punishable acts. This also includes disrespecting "any" religions.
"16. Anyone who violates or abuses any of the religious beliefs or privacy of people’s lives and information or a computer networks or the like, shall be punished by imprisonment for up to three years, or by a fine, or both."
Some cases of threatening and blackmailing often occur to girls in the form of a threat to publish photographs or private information. Even if the information is contrary to customs and morals, no one has the right to do this or to force girls to do what they don’t want to do. The penalty of threat and blackmail is imprisonment for up to two years, or fine, or both.
"By threatening or blackmailing
10. Anyone who uses the information network or a computer network or such hardware to threaten or blackmail another person to induce or refrain from committing an act (even if this act is lawful), shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or a fine, or both.”
According to Article 11, you have the right to report fraud in which a personal account is created using the name of a person you know, or a public name, or your own name and photos, for the purposes of obtaining money and lying. The penalty for such fraud is imprisonment for up to four years, or fine, or both.
"Fraud, impersonation or misrepresentation
11- Any who’s communicating through an information or a computer network or the like for the purpose of fraud using a pseudonym or falsified identity, so as to seize money, signatures or documents, for themselves or someone else, shall be punished by imprisonment for up to four years, or by a fine, or both. "
In cases of spying, intercepting calls, or installing of spy programs on phones for intercepting communication without permission from the Public Prosecution, even if the one committing the act is the communications companies themselves, the penalty here is up to three years of imprisonment, or fine, or both, according to Article 6.
"Tapping, capturing or intercepting of messages
6. Any person who eavesdrops on any messages or information or computers network or such, without the permission of the Public Prosecution or the competent authority or the owner of the information, shall be punished by imprisonment for a term up to three years, or a fine, or both. "
Even if such penetrations were motivated by noble goals, the hacking of personal accounts & websites, destruction of data, blocking & disrupting other services will imprison you for up to six years. This is even if you accessed just for the simple sake of it, without conducting any actions.
Source: @amethyst.venita via medium.com
Some penalties amount to 20 years of imprisonment and a fine in the case of creating websites that promote drugs through social networking sites. The penalty can be the transferring and deportation from the country if the incident is committed by a foreigner. Capturing official documents and letters has its own laws. However, it falls within the framework of cybercrime if they were published online. The penalty for employees is increased in case they leak information and data from their workplace.
A question that may come to mind is the intent of stating "up to" without specifying the duration. Depending on the sentence in question, the possibility of imprisonment, for example, can be one month or six months, within the defined penalty duration. Increasing or decreasing the duration depends on the case itself, and the judges’ privileges and how they perceive it. In certain cases where the perpetrator is young, or when they prove good intention - which is very difficult - or in the absence of former criminal behaviors, mitigation of penalty may happen. It depends on the case itself, its sensitivity and effects on the victim. The judge determines the duration of imprisonment or the amount of the fine.
Increasing penalty occurs in cases of psychological harm to individuals, especially with regard to women in conservative societies in cases of damaging reputation. Another example of such is when you are being photographed by an employee at work. How much the penalty is increased depends on the judges’ executive privileges. We should not forget that incitement and participation are no less important than committing crime itself. You will be held accountable and punished, as I have learned.
“Incitement, arranging or engaging”
23. (1) Perpetrators of incitement include anyone who have incited, assisted, agreed or participated with others in committing any of the crimes listed in this Act. In case of the crime not occurring, half of the penalty is decided.
(2) If a crime is committed as a result of that incitement, the instigator shall be punished by the same decided penalty"
After learning about the law and crimes falling under it, we should know the methods and place of reporting, the procedures, and what to do. This is important in case you are affected by defaming, insulting, extortion and other types of cybercrime. So you have to know how to prosecute the offender, and how to maintain rights.
Firstly, you must believe in your right to sue the aggressor regardless of their position. Do not listen to those who may belittle it when you are the one who’s hurt. Do not consult people of no background on the subject. In the end, you are the victim and the sufferer.
After taking the decision, take screenshots of all conversations, whether on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp or other platforms. Add the published posts as well. You recording a video is the best thing to do. Do not threaten the aggressor so that he does not become cautious in dealing with you. Just leave them alone and collect your evidence. Keep all evidence with you, and try to find two witnessed that are fully familiar with the case. Use them along with your digital evidence to prove your point.
Take all your evidence and witnesses. Even if you cannot manage two witnesses, one person will be enough. Head to the prosecution of cybercrime in Bahri – Al Danagla – north. (I am not sure about this address. They once stated that they are intending to move to a new headquarters. This needs to be confirmed)
Girls don’t need to fear words such as "prosecution". The place is more like a civil registry, very normal looking offices with female employees. You can bring a trusted relative if you want.
The first step is to go to the staff office, register your petition, and take a number to meet with the prosecutor to report the facts. The prosecutor assesses those facts to determine if there is a violation of the law. In the event of an offense, the officer registers a petition. You will need to take the petition and head to the Criminal Investigations Section at the Criminal Investigation Building, for your testimony to be taken.
Witnesses are heard in case they are available. All available documents of data are provided, so as to be addressed to the specialized entity. This entity may be a telecommunications company, information center, or forensics laboratory, for the purpose of giving their feedback. Once this statement is obtained, the owner of the phone number or the personal account is identified. The prosecutor begins by comparing statements with documents, testimony of the witnesses & official authorities, in order to make the decision. An arrest warrant will then be issued for the accused, so as to hear their statements. The most important thing is that their mobile phones or laptop are confiscated. They are then returned back to them after the completion of investigation and after the prosecution has reviewed all the data. If your claim is proven, the accused is charged and is referred to the court.
Question: did previous cases brought under this framework result in a prison term for the perpetrator? The answer is yes. Many. According to reports, the crimes of defamation and insulting are predominant. Deterrent penalties of some cases have been implemented. In other cases, the parties would reconcile and settle the case. For girls, your information is completely confidential. There is no need for worry.
What if the perpetrator denied all the charges, deleted evidence, posts and conversations? How will I regain my right? That’s why you should not threaten the perpetrator or tell them that you are reporting them, so that the evidence remains when you need it. But what if the perpetrator was able to completely wipe out their data on their device, or even destroy it? Is there a way to recover that data?
The criminal evidence unit in Khartoum has a special digital evidence section. When all devices are confiscated from the perpetrator, which are likely to hold the evidence (depending on the type of the report), they will be identified with a secret number, and the perpetrator will not be able to communicate with them. The device is isolated from electricity and any connection to any network. No text messages will be able to access it.
A duplicate of the device's hard drive is taken, which is read-only for both the perpetrator and the police. The device can then be returned to the perpetrator.
In the case of a hacking from a bank, a company office or Internet cafe, a team from The Initial Response Laboratory visits the crime scene, accompanied by the necessary equipment to take a replica of the infected devices. This is done so that the work is not interrupted by the infected place, and to allow the investigation team to continue their work from their offices.
There are specialists in extracting data at the lab from devices such as phones. Data can be extracted even if the device is broken, locked with a secret lock or formatted more than once. Specialized software can even retrieve deleted images, WhatsApp conversations and audio recordings.
This is followed by a general examination of audio files, video clips and images at The Forensics Evidence Lab. Another example is zooming in a picture to show numbers of a car license, or adjusting the resolution of faces in images. The offender can deny that what is recorded is his voice. In such a case, a sample of the offender's voice is taken, and the recordings are compared using reliable software.
We all know that telecom companies are able to identify the identity of a particular phone number’s owner, their geographical location, phone type, and calls. The Sudanese Information Security Center is also specialized in cyber security, security of websites and blocking of harmful websites. These two entities would receive a report from the prosecution, the police or the court, depending on the nature of the case. A number is assigned to the transaction, and is distributed to the respective sections such as the electronic evidence section, which is an entity similar to the Criminal Evidence Section. These sections have more sophisticated hardware.
The last step is in the digital evidence lab, where the electronic evidence is extracted and submitted to the court or prosecution, accompanied by a technical report. A copy of the report will be kept, and the engineer who prepares it will testify in court.
This is the case for Sudan. But what if you were offended by someone living outside Sudan? You can assign someone to sue them, depending on the country the offender lives in. There are collaborations between Sudan and other countries, and you can retain your right. I have already read Cybercrime Acts of the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and found that they have stricter laws compared to Sudan. At the very least, their fines reach 500,000 Riyals/Dirhams.
Some issues are intertwined, and can fall under different laws. For example, insulting a person through Twitter in a private conversation is considered defaming. But if a person publishes that conversation, it becomes a cybercrime for the purpose of defamation. I searched for examples but could only find one that took place in Saudi Arabia, where a Saudi man filmed expired products at a supermarket. The supermarket can sue the man. If only the man notified the responsible authorities. However, he published the photos on his personal account and was sued by the company. The company won the case and the man apologized.
I know that the talk on this subject can go further, but it was necessary to go in detail despite my attempts to summarize a lot. Similar events exist especially on Twitter, and they spread quickly among different communities. Unlike Facebook, which is confined to our Sudanese communities, making it less likely to spread beyond that border. I have been using Twitter since 2010, and it was not populated with many Sudanese users at the time. I would rarely come across a person posting a picture of a girl with her phone number, especially since most of the users at the time were from the Gulf area, thus they were knowledgeable of the laws. Plus, their countries’ ministries have been making efforts to educate on rights and people’s positioning.
I know that most defamers do not know the fact that what they do is wrong, but are just drifting behind emotions associated with a cause. Perhaps they are only complimenting their friends, or joking. But what is wrong is wrong, and the law remains. Be aware of your rights and the rights of others.