New UAE Cybercrimes law: Do you know what can land you in trouble?
Dubai:Don’t insult, don’t hate, don’t poke fun, don’t be rude – basic rules of etiquette that should be applied in all interactions, and failing to do so can result in criminal action against you as per the UAE Cybercrimes Law, especially on any digital platform within the country
The UAE Cybercrimes Law - Federal Decree-Law No. 34 of 2021 - came into took effect on January 2, 2022, replacing the previous law - Federal Law No. 5 of 2012 on Combatting Cybercrimes.
Recently, UAE Public Prosecution posted an informational video about Article 53 of the new law and the penalties associated with it. According to the article, an individual can be fined a minimum of Dh300,000 and a maximum of Dh10million for making available, storing or publishing illegal content without removing it or banning access to it within the duration specified in orders issued by the authorities.
1. Stores, makes available or publishes illegal content and fails to remove or block access to such content during the period specified in the issued orders set out in this Decree Law.
2. Abstains from compliance with one of the issued orders described in this Decree Law, in whole or in part, without accepted excuse.
What is classified as illegal content?
Dubai-based lawyer Ludmila Yamalova, who is the Founder and Managing Partner of HPL Yamalova & Plewka DMCC, explained that as per the definitions mentioned within the Cybercrimes Law, illegal content is defined as, “…content whose subject matter is one of the legally punishable crimes or whose publication, circulation or re-circulation in the state may undermine security, sovereignty or any interests of the State or public health, public peace, cordial relations between the State and other States; may affect results of elections of members of the Federal National Council or advisory councils in the Emirates of the State; incite feud or hatred feelings among a group of different persons; or diminish the public’s trust in the performance of any duty or task or the exercise of any power by any State authority or institution.”
Yamalova clarified that as per the definition stated in the Cybercrimes Law, the following cases would be considered as illegal content in the UAE:
- If the subject matter is a legally punishable crime in the UAE;
- If the publication or its circulation undermines national security, sovereignty, or public interest;
- If the publication or its circulation undermines the UAE’s relationship with other states;
- If the publication can affect official election results, such as Federal National Council (FNC) elections or advisory council elections;
- If the publication can incite hatred amongst different groups of persons;
- If the publication diminishes public trust in a State authority or institution.
How is a ban placed on illegal content and who imposes it?
Clause 2 of Article 53 stipulates that if an individual does not comply with an order to remove illegal content, he or she may face a fine ranging from Dh300,000 to Dh10 million.
Jaber Al Ameeri, Senior Associate at Dubai-based law firm ADG Legal, clarified that such an order can be issued by any Federal or Emirate-level entity authorised to deal with cybersecurity.
“Article 62 read with Article 71 of the Law authorises the competent bodies – that is Federal or Emirate-level entities concerned with electronic and cybersecurity affairs, such as Dubai Police or the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority – to issue orders to the concerned person, or online platform, as the case may be, to remove or restrict access to the illegal content. The competent bodies may issue such orders on their own, or at the request of UAE’s Attorney General. If such orders are not complied with, the concerned person will attract the penalties mentioned in Article 53 of the Law. Article 59 of the Law authorises the court – after judging the conviction in any crimes mentioned under the Law – to order the shutdown or blocking of the offending website in whole or in part,” Al Ameeri said.
Article 62 read with Article 71 of the Law authorises the competent bodies – that is Federal or Emirate-level entities concerned with electronic and cybersecurity affairs, such as Dubai Police or the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority – to issue orders to the concerned person, or online platform, as the case may be, to remove or restrict access to the illegal content.
What should UAE residents avoid posting or sharing on social media?
Kostubh Devnani, Associate at ADG Legal, also commented on how the definition of illegal content in the new cybercrimes law means that online users should think twice before posting content online.
“Given that the Law defines ‘illegal content’ very broadly, UAE Residents should be careful in what they post, circulate or re-circulate on social media,” Devnani said.
He also provided examples of the type of content UAE residents should avoid posting or sharing on social media:
- Misleading or inaccurate information or ‘fake news’
- Misleading advertisements
- Insults and slander
- Content favouring or propagating terrorism or terrorist activities
- Content for the purpose of satire or harming the reputation of UAE or one of the state authorities, institutions or current or past leaders
- Pornographic content
- Child pornographic content
- Content propagating gambling activities
- Content that may incite hatred or cause violence
- Content to undermine the security, sovereignty or any interests of the state or public health, or diminish public’s trust in the government institutions
“UAE residents should also refrain from creating fake accounts on social media,” he added.
However, Devnani stated that if a UAE resident accidently posted or shared illegal content and is not aware of the UAE’s laws and regulation regarding illegal content, they should immediately and proactively remove it.
UAE Cybercrimes Law covers criminal action beyond UAE borders
“Article 69 makes the Law applicable to everyone who commits the crimes mentioned in the Law, regardless of where the person is physically located. This means that a person who commits a crime under the Law, including the violation of Article 53, either from within or outside the UAE, can be prosecuted in the UAE,” added Devnani.
This means that a person who commits a crime under the Law, including the violation of Article 53, either from within or outside the UAE, can be prosecuted in the UAE.