Facebook Free Basics banned in Egypt for a lack of spying

In another blow for Mark Zuckerberg's free internet service, Facebook Free Basics has been banned in Egypt. The Egyptian government made the decision after Facebook refused to allow it to use the service to spy on users.

The shutdown comes just five months after Facebook Free Basics launched in Egypt, having proved controversial in other countries for contravening net neutrality rules. But Facebook's refusal to permit government surveillance of users means that the service has been banned this time for political reasons.

The decision is not completely unexpected. The Egyptian government suspended Facebook Free Basics at the end of December because, as Reuters reports, the initial permit to operate was only temporary.

Egypt's Ministry of Communication implies that the ban comes as a result of anti-competitive behaviour, with spokesman Mohamed Hanafi saying: "The service was offered free of charge to the consumer, and the national telecommunication regulator saw the service as harmful to companies and their competitors."

While details are thin on the ground, Reuters cites 'two sources with direct knowledge of discussions between Facebook and the Egyptian government'. Whatever the thinking behind the ban is, it is unlikely to prove popular with Egyptians looking for a free way to gain access to the internet.

Facebook had said at the time of the Free Basics suspension that it hoped to resolve the situation, but it has not commented on the current ban.

Photo credit: tulpahn / Shutterstock