Dubai: If you have been indulging in hate speech or making personal, slanderous comments online, watch out. The UAE’s Penal Code and the laws against cyber crimes, in particular, stipulate stiff penalties, fines, jail time as well as deportation for anti-social behaviour online.
The UAE’s police and judicial authorities act swiftly in criminal cases online and regularly raise awareness on the expected conduct on social media. In 2019, Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) recorded over 512 criminal cases pertaining to violations on social media, which included harassment, blackmail, threats, exploitation and invading privacy by entering other’s accounts and posting abusive comments.
Addressing a forum on the misuse of social media sites and the law in November 2019, Al Amir Al Amri, First Prosecutor at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, said that the Federal law of social media covers crimes that happen inside and outside the country, if its impact spreads inside the UAE or the crime committed outside the UAE comes under the jurisdiction of the UAE.
Article 30 of the Federal Constitution of the UAE gives the freedom to people to express their opinions using all kinds of mediums within the rules of the country, but the freedom of using social media sites ends when it interferes with others rights and freedom, he said.
The UAE’s laws have clearly laid out the legal recourse available to an individual whose reputation is maligned by another person’s actions. Article 20 of the Federal Law No. 5 of 2012 on Combatting Cybercrimes determine a punishment of imprisonment and a fine of not less than Dh250,000 and not in excess of Dh500,000 five hundred thousand dirhams or either of these two penalties for whoever insults or accuses another person of a matter of which he shall be subject to punishment or being held in contempt by others, by using a computer network or an information technology means.
If a slander or insult is committed against a public official or servant in the course of or because of his work, this shall be considered an aggravating factor of the crime.
Invasion of privacy
Article 21 of the same law stipulates imprisonment for at least six months and fine not less than Dh100,000 and not in excess of Dh500,000, or either of these two penalties for whoever uses a computer network or and electronic information system or any information technology means for the invasion of privacy of another person in other than the cases allowed by the law and by any of the following ways:
1- Eavesdropping, interception, recording, transferring, transmitting or disclosure of conversations or communications, or audio or visual materials.
2- Photographing others or creating, transferring, disclosing, copying or saving electronic photos.
3- Publishing news, electronic photos or photographs, scenes, comments, statements or information even if true and correct.
Shall also be punished by imprisonment for a period of at least one year and a fine not less than Dh200,000 and not in excess of Dh500,000 or either of these two penalties whoever uses an electronic information system or any information technology means for amending or processing a record, photo or scene for the purpose of defamation of or offending another person or for attacking or invading his privacy.
Contempt of religion
Article 35 stipulates penalties of imprisonment and a fine of not less than Dh250,000 and not more than Dh1,000,000 for any person using electronic sites to display contempt for any holy symbols, characters, figures and rituals of Islam including the Divinity (Allah, God) and the Prophets and for any other faiths or religions or any of their symbols, characters, figures and rituals.
Article 29 of the same law stipulates penalties of imprisonment and a fine not exceeding Dh1 million for any person who may create or run an electronic site or any information technology means, to deride or to damage the reputation or the stature of the state or any of its institutions, its President, the Vice President, any of the Rulers of the emirates, their Crown Princes, the Deputy Rulers, the national flag, the national anthem, the emblem of the state or any of its symbols.
Article 30 punishes any person from creating or running an electronic site for the purpose of engaging in the overthrow of the system of government of the state or to seize it, or to seek to disrupt or obstruct the Constitution or the effective laws of the state, or to oppose the basic principles which constitute the foundations of the system of government of the state.
Article 42 of the law states: “The court may decide deportation of a foreigner who is condemned in any of the crimes specified in this Decree Law upon execution of the punishment adjudged.”