New Federal Decree Law No 34 of 2021 has introduced major amendments to Federal Law 5 of 2012, Cybercrimes Law, covering crimes committed online. Image Credit: Gulf News

Dubai: Spreading rumours or propagating false news online has always been a punishable crime in the UAE. With the new amendments to UAE’s Cybercrime Law, however, the punishment for such offences has became harsher.

The new law presents tougher penalties for spreading rumours or false news on social media platforms.

People can be punished with up to one year in jail and a fine of Dh100,000 if they publish or republish or circulate false news or information or propaganda.

New Federal Decree Law No 34 of 2021 has introduced major amendments to Federal Law 5 of 2012, Cybercrimes Law, covering crimes committed online.

According to Wageh Amin Abdelaziz, senior legal adviser at World Center Advocates and Legal Consultants, the law aims to enhance community protection against online crimes and combat the spread of rumours and misleading or fake news.

Wageh Amin Abdelaziz

“Rumour is a dangerous social malaise that humanity has known for a long time. Social media platforms have enabled the spread of rumours as it has become easy to post and re-post fake content or unsubstantiated news,” Abdelaziz told Gulf News.

He further said that people spreading rumours have various targets — psychological, financial, social, economical. “Due to the dangerous nature of the crime, Emirati legislators have sought stringent punishments in the new amendment to effectively combat rumours and cybercrimes.”

He said that Article 52 of Federal Decree-Law No 34 of 2021 on combatting rumours and cybercrimes states that the punishment for anyone spreading rumours or publishing false news online is one year in jail and a fine of Dh100,000.

“The punishment can be up to two years in jail and a fine of Dh200,000 if the information published or shared results in agitating or stirring up public opinion against State authorities or institutions or are committed during times of pandemics, crises, emergencies or disasters,” he added.

Earlier this month, UAE Public Prosecution posted a video warning people of the crime and reminding them of the new penalties for posting misleading information or fake news. This is in keeping with the UAE’s attempt to spread awareness within society in the digital era. “People should be careful about posting or circulating rumours that can cause disturbance in society. We should always get the facts right from official channels or verified media outlets only in order to avoid legal action,” Abdelaziz added.

Legislative reforms

The new law is in line with the major legislative reforms announced by the country for the next 50 years. The amendments to the Cybercrime Law authorises the UAE’s General Attorney to issue a case to block a website or platform that violates the law or commits a cybercrime directed at the UAE — even if the platform is based outside the UAE.