Gov't to fight cyber frauds in Internet messengers, social networks

By Nigar Orujova

Azerbaijan has started negotiations with international companies on the regulation of instant messengers and social networks in the country.

“The Communications and High Technologies Ministry will certify the activity of instant messengers (Viber, WhatsApp, Skype, and others) and social networks,” said Communications and High Technologies Minister Ali Abbasov on August 27.

Abbasov said negotiations with these companies have already started. “Most of them have reacted positively to this action of the regulatory body of the country.”

“As it is known, people are actively using social networks and instant messengers in Azerbaijan,” he went on to say. “Moreover, a number of them render services over the Internet. As a regulatory body, we believe that the companies engaged in mass collection of information in Azerbaijan must work in accordance with the country’s law about the personal data, that is, get a certificate. This certificate is issued by our ministry.”

“Currently, the ministry is already negotiating with Viber, WhatsApp, Skype, and social networks,” he said. “This practice is used not only in Azerbaijan but also in some European countries.”

Every country certifies and regulates the activity of its instant messengers and social networks in accordance with its laws, Abbasov added.

“Certainly, it is a fairly complex and painstaking work, which is often perceived as an alleged obstacle to their activities,” he said.

However, Abbasov assured that this is not a case in Azerbaijan. “I can definitely say that it is not so, and never will be like that. These companies have a fairly extensive database of citizens' personal data, and we as the regulatory body should protect the rights of citizens in a virtual environment.”

Negotiations conducted with Viber, WhatsApp, Skype, and social networks being conducted constructively, and many of them have already begun to study the legislation of Azerbaijan, the minister added.

“I believe that their activities will be certified, and those companies that provide communications services will have to get a license,” said Abbasov.

The idea of licensing the activity of instant messengers and social networks in Azerbaijan was first introduced by the Communication and High Tech Minister earlier in August.

There are no restrictions in Azerbaijan on services rendered by social networks like Skype, Facebook, and WhatsApp, Abbasov said then.

Azerbaijan is a country with developing information technologies where the mobile phone penetration rate stands at 112 percent. Social networks and messengers are broadly used among all ages.

For years, Facebook has remained the most visited website in Azerbaijan, however, people are increasingly using other social networks like YouTube, Twitter, Vkontakte, and Odnoklassniki, as well as instant messenger platforms such as WhatsApp, Skype, Viber, Telegram, etc.

Notwithstanding that this trend harms the interests of the mobile operators, the Communications and High Technologies Ministry earlier assured users that it does not intend to limit the operation of internet messengers in Azerbaijan.

Thus, the process of regulation is expected to not touch users.

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Nigar Orujova is AzerNews’s staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @o_nigar

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