Apps, arrests and abuse in Egypt, Lebanon and Iran

Digital 2 min read


An investigation into use of social and dating apps by the LGBTQ community in Egypt, Lebanon, and Iran. This study focuses on security, risk-management, and user perceptions of how the structure and features of apps and social media platforms interact with their own risk-levels.

Widespread repression and marginalisation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Queer (LGBTQ) groups and individuals globally have limited safe opportunities for meeting in public spaces. The targeting of LGBTQ groups in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region reached a climax in September 2017 when more than 50 people were arrested due to perceptions of their gender and sexual identities in Egypt after the rainbow flag was flown during a concert. Many of these arrests happened via entrapment through LGBTQ dating apps.

Fear and risk forces LGBTQ communities to communicate and connect online but  apps and platforms being used are also putting users at risk.

In 2014, stories surfaced about apps being used entrap gay and transgender users in Egypt through the apps’ geolocation features. Yet, limited investigation was done into the full methods used and the extent LGBTQ groups were targeted.

It has since emerged that these apps are routinely used both by authorities and non-state actors to target members of the LGBTQ community.

Our research

ARTICLE 19 has been working to improve the digital safety and security of online LGBTQ communities in Egypt, Lebanon, and Iran.

This summary report presents data about users in Egypt, Lebanon and Iran where the LGBTQ community are heavily reliant on dating apps to communicate, date, “hook up”, and fall in love.

These are also countries in which communication and dating tools have been used by state authorities and homophobic non-state actors to target members of the LGBTQ community.

Read summary report

Find out more about our work on LGBTQ communities’ security in Iran, Egypt and Lebanon.