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The Moroccan legal system currently lacks laws to deter crimes committed through social media and similar networks, such as spreading false news and blackmailing. Law 22-20 will align the national legal system with the international standards adopted in the field of fighting cybercrime, especially after Morocco ratified the Budapest Convention on Information Crime on 29 June 2018.
The new law covers several objectives, including legal protection of digital communication freedom, along with the documentation of the various forms of crimes committed online, especially those affecting public security or presenting harm to individuals.
The law also tackles crimes targeting minors, defines the procedures to address illicit electronic content, and stipulates the sanctions against cybercrime.
However, this bill has sparked a lively debate among Moroccan activists who claim that the bill involves serious attacks on individual and constitutional freedoms. They claim in particular that the bill was adopted without prior consultation and in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis.
The bill provides in particular for sanctioning the use of social networks in order to conduct campaigns for the boycott of certain products. This was the case in Morocco in 2018 where a very popular campaign on social networks led to the boycott of the products of three major brands in Morocco.
The bill also provides for punishing social media campaigns aimed at calling on the public to withdraw funds deposited with banks. There are also plans to penalise the publication and sharing of false information intended to cast doubt on the quality and safety of certain products and goods.
These sanctions as provided for in this bill are as follows:
The bill also provides for the establishment of administrative authorisation for all Internet access providers and content providers.
Following the heated debate over the leaking of this bill, the authorities declared that the initial version of the draft, which was presented to the government council, had not been presented to parliament and that the draft had been submitted to a technical committee to be amended before being resubmitted to parliament.
Jaafar Laidi holds a Maîtrise en Droit Privé from Hassan II. University (Casablanca) and a Diplôme d´Études Supérieures Spécialisées in International Business Law from the University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis (France). Mr Laidi is a qualified lawyer in Morocco. In 2001 he joined the Arthur Andersen Casablanca office, which merged with Ernst & Young in 2004. He was promoted to the role of Manager in Ernst & Young in 2005 and has focussed his career on Corporate, Real Estate and Labour Law. Mr Laidi has also worked on projects concerning the public sector (administrative concessions, tourism development projects, etc.). He is a fluent speaking of Arabic, English, French and Spanish. In 2005, Mr Laidi was appointed Legal Manager of the Garrigues office in Casablanca and continues in this capacity.
Written by Jaafar Laidi
To fight fake news in Morocco, government council approved law 22-20 related to the use of social media, open broadcast networks, and similar networks. The council approved the law on 19 March during its weekly meeting, after reviewing the technical and ministerial committees’ studies on the bill. The Minister of Justice submitted the bill in order to provide a legal framework for Morocco’s fight against emerging patterns of cybercrime, and fake news without prejudice to the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of digital communication, as part of freedom of speech.