Adonis Diaries

Thoughts on Sacking the Cybercrimes Bureau woman Chief Hobeiche in Lebanon

Posted on: October 6, 2017

Thoughts on the Cyber-crimes Bureau Chief Sacking

Gino Raidy on Oct. 3, 2017

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel gleeful at such ironic poetic justice: the person heading the bureau that had summoned and arrested so many civilians, journalists, activists and bloggers for shares, retweets, likes and statuses, would be sacked from her job for “liking” a tweet about Saudi Arabian women being able to drive now.

However, past the initial “you deserve it” gut reaction, there are several worrying things about this case, which I will try to discuss below.

Saudi Arabia is a Topic You Can Be Fired for in Lebanon

It’s a bit sad that all the violations of the Cybercrime Bureau, didn’t cost anyone there their jobs, but a tweet seen as “insulting” to Saudi Arabia did the trick.

Where were her superiors when university students were lured to the offices under false pretenses, like “your phone is a stolen one” only to be arrested and thrown in jail for days and weeks over an article they shared or a status they wrote?

What about the random phone calls after hours, asking a person to show up for “coffee” the next morning, only to be interrogated, without the charge or reason being specified, and without officially summoning them in person, as the law states.

The message being sent to taxpayers by the ISF, is that if its bodies abuse citizens’ rights, no one will be held accountable for that, but if you “like” a tweet poking fun at Saudi Arabia, the main financier and godfather of several political parties in Lebanon, then you’ll be out of a job at lightning speed.

This is both demoralizing for taxpayers like us, but also honest cops, who know that they will not be punished for breaking human rights law, but might suffer the full wrath of their superiors if they dare utter, by mistake or not, something that a foreign ambassador might not like…

Hobeiche’s Response Was Even More Censorship Attempts

You’d think that being at the receiving end of censorship and bullying, that the former head of the Cybercrimes Bureau would realize the error of her ways and the negative, unfair and obtuse impact of trying to control what people can and cannot say, share or agree/disagree with. Instead though, she has filed a lawsuit against the person who caught her “like” of Charbel Khalil’s tweet.

Whether by mistake or not, she did like that tweet, and punishing the person who revealed that, instead of taking it up with her superiors as a misunderstanding, shows that this ironic twist of fate didn’t really hammer in the idea we might have hoped it would: that trying to shut people up by force, and twisting their arms when they say something you don’t like, is never the answer.

Alas, this is not the case, and I wish that person luck in the upcoming investigations.

The Real Problem is Still There

The Cybercrimes Bureau is a symptom, not the disease. The real issue is with the judiciary, especially the general prosecutors, which are the folks who forward cases to that bureau.

The problem is, any and all Internet-related cases are sent there, whether it’s child porn or a tweet that someone found offensive to the “symbols of the nation”. (Are emptying our pockets as State highway robbing schemes a symbolic issue?)

So, it’s no surprise the detectives there treat you like some criminal for a like or share, if what they’re supposed to be investigating is heinous crimes like credit card fraud, sexual abuse online, blackmail and malicious hacking.

That bureau is no place for a journalist or activist who in their passion said something that the current ruling elite were ticked off by.

The removal of Hobeiche, will not solve anything, and in the spirit of not prejudging her successor, he might do a better job, but he might also ramp up the bureau’s bullying activities as a tool against anyone who dissents from the general party line of the ruling political parties and politicians in Lebanon.

In Conclusion

The Cybercrimes Bureau needs to focus on real crimes, and stop wasting our tax money and arresting people for something they wrote, shared or liked. The judiciary needs to keep up with the times, and appoint qualified people who enforce laws that don’t date back to the 1950s before the Internet had even been conceived in fiction novels of the time.

What happened to Hobeiche is a valuable lesson for everyone in power, that the loopholes and ambiguities and lack of accountability you use to bully taxpayers like us, can come back to haunt you yourselves one day.

I hope the Cybercrimes Bureau will stop being a tool of oppression against taxpayers, and instead do the job it’s supposed to: fight online crime, not online free speech.

For this to happen, public prosecutors need to stop wasting the bureau’s resources and accomplishments against actual crimes, in order to bully innocent citizens of Lebanon.

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October 2017

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