A number of legal risks are involved in the use of social media in the UAE, and it is imperative to be aware of all applicable laws and their implications.
The WhatsApp application, which is a mere means of communication between individuals, has led many people to courts for abuse. It has become prominent evidence before UAE courts and a clear evidence of the commission of some crimes under the information technology law.
According to lawyer Ali Mansouri, the misuse of information technology, is subject to the Federal Law on Combating Information Technology Crimes. Article 20 provides for imprisonment and a fine of not less than Dh250,000 up to Dh500,000 or one of these penalties for each of the third parties or assigns an act that would make it punishable or disrespectful by others, using an information network or an information technology means.
Here are the do's and don'ts while posting online:
Engage in conversations on social media that would breach another individual or entity's confidential information. There are legal implications that could include temporary imprisonment as well as a fine (Article 4 of Article 378 of the UAE Penal Code).
Be respectful of confidential information shared with you. Information pertaining to a company's financial earnings or business deals would be considered confidential and should not be shared.
Posting defamatory statements or publishing information that exposes another person or entity to contempt or public humiliation on social media platforms is an offence and punishable under the Article 372 Penal Code.
Make sure the information you post online doesn't make any accusations that discredit or dishonours another person.
Take a picture, publish or display an image of someone. This would be an invasion of someone's privacy according to the Cyber Crimes Law (Federal Law No.5 of 2012) Additionally, Federal Law No 3 of 1987 (the UAE's Penal Code) states it is an offence to publish someone's photograph without their prior consent. The Copyright Law (Federal Law No.7 of 2002 also makes it a crime to publish or distribute a picture without someone's consent, unless there is an agreement between the two that dispenses with the requirement for consent.
Ask for and get written consent if you wish to post someone's image on your social media platforms. Federal Law No. 5 of 2012 (the Cyber Crimes Law) states that posting images without permission is an offence.
Mock the representatives of the nation, encouraging sinful activity Article 361 of the UAE Penal Code, make lewd remarks against religion or remarks aimed at corrupting minors. These offences are outlined in articles 360 to Article 370 of the UAE penal code. One may be sentenced to detention for up to six months and a fine up to Dh5,000.
Publish posts that are in compliance with good conduct and public morals. Be respectful of other nationalities and religions and display tolerance.
Punishment and jail sentences
The UAE's clear and strict laws against cyber-crimes cover various penalties which include lengthy prison terms and fines of up to Dh3 million. The Cyber Crimes Law constitutes a range of infringements and sentences depending on the severity of the offence.
Article No. 26 specifies an arrest period of at least 10 years and not more than 25 years, and a penalty in the form of a fine not less than Dh2 million and not in excess of Dh4 million on anyone who establishes, manages or runs a website or publishes information meant for trafficking in humans or human organs or dealing in them illegally.
The Article mentions an arrest period for a minimum five years and a fine of at least Dh500,000 and not more than Dh1 million for whoever establishes or publishes information on the computer network intending to incite hate.
Additionally, the law specifies various punishments for numerous cyber-crimes which include insulting religions and rituals, slandering public officials and forging official electronic documents, sending or re-publishing pornographic materials or reproducing credit/debit card data, as well as obtaining pin codes or passwords.
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