Undercover police officers in Egypt created fake profiles on gay dating apps to lure unsuspecting users into making incriminating statements, an investigation has found.
The technique was uncovered in transcripts of arrest reports which show that the authorities are targeting LGBTQ+ people for capture and imprisonment.
In one interaction on the WhosHere app, an officer asked a young man “Have you slept with men before?” to which the user replied “Yes”. The man was then pressurised to meet and subsequently arrested.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Egypt but gay people have long been charged with “debauchery” to criminalise their actions.
One user accused police of framing him by making a fake profile of him, doctoring his photographs to appear explicit and fabricating a conversation in which he appeared to offer sex work.
The man was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for “habitual debauchery”, which was reduced to a month on appeal.
One foreign national was arrested, charged with “debauchery” and deported after using the gay dating app Grindr.
After an informant engaged the man in conversation on the site, a police transcript said that the user “admitted his perversion, his willingness to engage in debauchery, and sent pictures of himself”.
Grindr told the BBC: “We work extensively with Egyptian LGBT activists, international human rights advocates, and safety-focused technologists to best serve our users in the region.”
After the broadcaster approached WhosHere, the app changed its setting to remove the option to select “seeking same sex”, a criterion that had put users in Egypt at risk. The Egyptian police did not respond to a request for comment.
In 2020 Human Rights Watch said Egyptian security forces “routinely pick people off the streets based solely on their gender expression, entrap them through social networking sites and dating applications, and unlawfully search their phones”.
The group claimed LGBTQ+ Egyptians had been subjected to torture, beatings and sexual violence in police custody.
Telegraph Media Group Limited