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Lebanese E-Transactions Law Postponed for a month

It gives me great pleasure to announce that Lebanese bloggers were able today to postpone the Lebanese E-Transactions Law. According to SMEX,org, the vote on the E-Transactions Law was postponed for one month, sent back to committee for revision.

After many long awaited years and after many opportunities and money wasted the Lebanese are finally getting their e-transaction law. But instead of cheers and hallelujah, the online community is greeting this law with a big big gloom and anger. This law, if passed, will take us backward in time and will drive all foreign investments away. [...] This is simply like looking up to a light at the end of a very dark long tunnel only to find out that the source of this light is a burning fire that you can’t even avoid. (link)

ماني فرانسيسكو ــ الفيليبين
The Law:
There are some very troubling articles in the law that threaten to create a more restrictive or at least more monitored online environment in Lebanon, including:

Article 70. Arising under this Act a body called the Electronic Signatures & Services Authority, enjoying the moral and financial and administrative independence and exercise the powers and functions entrusted to it under this Act and placed to regulate the administrative and financial decrees adopted in the Council of Ministers upon the proposal of the competent minister (in this case OMSAR)….This body is not subject to the provisions of the general system of public institutions and is under the control of the Audit Bureau (after the fact).

Article 82. The Agency may, within the exercise of its functions set out in this Act, carry out inspections of financial, administrative and electronic access to any information or computer systems or tools related to operations, including those used for data processing in relation with private information.Employees are entrusted inspection functions as an specialized judicial police within the scope of the Authority’s work. Public Prosecutions and the investigating judges and courts may use the Authority in their investigations, provided that the staff of the agency concerned had sworn before the Court of Appeal in Beirut prior to their work.

Article 84. The observer or inspector is assigned formally by the inspection work either periodically or upon the complaint. An observer or inspector can , to the extent required by the mission only, and the requirement to maintain the confidentiality of information seen it, to request:
  • Access to any document regardless of media and obtain copies of it.
  • Obtaining all information or clarifications it deems necessary, from the place of investigation, or after invitation.
  • Access to software, data and print them.
  • The use of experts when necessary building permission from the President of the Commission.

Article 87. The Agency may, depending on the type and gravity of the offense [for violating the terms of licenses that ESSA will sell—see Article 92 below], the imposition of any such action or fines following:
  • Stop treatment if the assets were subject to the permit.
  • Modify the terms of the license as to ensure the elimination of the violation.
  • Suspension of a license for a specified period.
  • Cancel the license.
  • Impose a fine commensurate with the gravity of the offense committed and the benefits resulting therefrom.

Article 92. Each person wishing to provide signature and authentication services of any electronic or online services relevant under the supervision of the Commission, must obtain a license. (link)
[See a full translation of Articles 70 to 92]

So what are the major pain points in the e-Transaction Law?
[If you are viewing this post via Google Buzz, click here to see the video]

  • The ESSA (Electronic Signatures and Services Authority) was established under this law with discretionary, selective, subjective and very broad and unjustified powers, beyond the objectives of the law and its functions. Its prerogatives are almost repressive for all "service providers" of electronic services and economic sectors at large.
  • ESSA staff are given the powers of law enforcement (ضابطة العدلية), without any judicial oversight.
  • A number of relevant ministries such as Ministry of Economy, Telecommunications and Finance are marginalized with a clear conflict of powers with the ESSA.
  • ESSA is given regulatory powers, and operational powers meaning that it can regulate and operate at the same time.
  • There are many contradictions and ambiguities in many of the legal concepts and language
  • These observations and other observations in the drafting details [...] are preventing this law from performing its desired function. This will result in a negative impact on the economic activity and investment panorama, due to the unjustified restrictions and unusual constraints that the law is putting on vital economic sectors in Lebanon. (link)
How does this affect us?
As Maya Zankoul puts it: 
For the alternatives, check Maya's post of Maya's Amalgam.

Support Stopping this law on Facebook:
Also Follow #stopthislaw hashtag on Twitter, and most importantly, SPREAD THE WORD.

Related posts on this issue:
SMEXGabriel DeekQifa NabkiTrellalbMaya ZankoulBeirutiyatThe Identity ChefIndependence05Beirut SpringNow LebanonRiham BerjaouiArchangelusPlus 961Jad AounLebanese NightsDany Awad, Salim Al LawziAl AkhabrAl BaladGino’s BlogSarah Hilal


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