Cairo (AP) — A popular gay social networking application said Friday that it is issuing a warning to its users in Egypt, as police impersonate community members to target LGBTQ+ individuals.
Users in Egypt will see the following warning appear in Arabic and English when they open the app:
“We have been alerted that Egyptian police is actively making arrests of gay, bi, and trans people on digital platforms. They are using fake accounts and have also taken over accounts from real community members who have already been arrested and had their phones taken. Please take extra caution online and offline, including with accounts that may have seemed legitimate in the past.”
Egypt, though it technically does not outlaw homosexuality, frequently prosecutes members of the LGBTQ+ community on the grounds of ‘debauchery,’ or ‘violating public decency.’ In 2017, it arrested seven for raising a rainbow flag at a rock concert. And arrests of homosexuals and non-gender conforming individuals remain common.
An Egyptian government media officer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Grindr’s new measure.
The warning to users comes after rights groups and media have reported how authorities in the wider region are increasingly taking to digital platforms to crack down on the LGBTQ+ community.
In February, Human Rights Watch released a report documenting dozens of cases of security agencies in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Tunisia extorting, harassing, publicly outing, and detaining LGBTQ+ people based on their activities on Facebook and Instagram, as well as the dating app Grindr. The publication also questioned major tech companies for not investing sufficiently in Arabic language content moderation and protection.
“Grindr is working with groups on the ground in Egypt to make sure our users have up to date information on how to stay safe, and we are pushing international organizations and governments to demand justice and safety for the Egyptian LGBTQ community,” said Grindr spokesperson Patrick Lenihan in response to a request for comment on Friday.
A popular dating app for the gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community, California-based Grindr has faced criticism in the U.S. and been fined in Norway for sharing personal data with third parties that could potentially identify users.