UAE Laws

UAE Cyber Law on Social Media for political speech or criticism

It's important that you understand the implications when you walk into a legal minefield if you make errors in the social media.

If you’re minutely active on the Facebook by commenting and posting about everything whatever comes in your mind. If it’s the case, then probably you’ve more than a thousand friends, and most of these friends are strangers. Perhaps, you are not engaging with your friends to have a conversation, they are merely added to your Facebook profile. Possibly, most of your friends are only communicating you through comments, likes, etc.

In this case, probably many people may do not have the same opinion as you’re sharing on Facebook. So, many of your friends on Facebook may be leaving you each day if they do not agree with whatever you’re sharing or commenting on Facebook. Additionally, new friend requests you may receive regularly from those who like your views. Eventually, it leads to having only friends of a similar worldview.

Socially, if you’re active for a particular cause and find that your close friends, classmates, and prominent people end up unfriending you on Facebook. If it’s happening, then you must reconsider your social media strategy to project your social cause more moderately.

Secondly, you are active on Facebook for expressing your views efficiently. Then, you may find that more people end up unfriending if they do not agree with your opinions, or if they are not ready to see that you are fearlessly expressing your views.

Facebook in the UAE

Thirdly, if you’re using the Facebook in the United Arab Emirates (recklessly) on everything whatever comes to your mind. Or, if you are sharing whatever appearing in news feed, you may go foul. By going foul, you may be subject to punishment under the UAE laws.

Therefore, do not use Facebook or any other social media channel for sectarian criticism, discussing GCC/Arab politics or UAE Politics, or racial criticism. Do not tag others on Facebook without their consent, do not share or retweet news links without reading them. For, the link may be critical of the authority and the government, and you’re risking yourselves by going foul either deliberately or due to ignorance. Don’t post critical posts, tweets or comments anywhere on the internet particularly social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Blog, etc.

Tagging someone on the Facebook or other channels of social media without a consent from the person you are tagging him/her is also illegal in the United Arab Emirates.

Posting material (including videos and photographs) online that are critical of the UAE government, companies, or individuals, or related to incidents in the UAE, or appearing to abuse/ridicule/criticize the country or its authorities may be considered a crime punishable under UAE law. There have been cases of individuals being detained, prosecuted, and/or convicted for posting this type of material. (gov.uk)

Do not post photos or text posts on the social media of any incidents such as fires in a building and storm damage since it means you are publishing news without a license which is a crime in the UAE.

Facebook has public viewers

Social media is subsequently a double-edged sword. It’s a powerful tool to be a neighbouring-door to millions of people and share your views with them; it’s also risky if you go foul with this tool. Whenever you share your opinion on social media, you’re unknowingly sharing your views with strangers who may use your opinion to their advantage or your opinion can be taken into account to strangers to judge you or judge their views citing your comments or posts that you made on Facebook.

Understanding the legal issues surrounding blogs

Even if you’re not a lawyer or a journalist, it’s important that you understand the implications when you accidentally walk into a legal minefield if you make errors. Basically, the important things to understand is copyright, trademarks, defamation, and illegality. These will vary depending on what country you live in, so our advice would be to do the relevant research, according to the ExpatWoman.

The social media laws in UAE

Sharing Photographs: When posting pictures of others on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media sites. You must be careful since Cyber Law of UAE (Federal Law No. 5 of 2012) makes it clear that it is an offence to breach someone’s privacy through the means of IT, including taking someone’s pictures without their consent and publish them online or display them publicly.

Someone’s Privacy: Disclosing someone’s privacy, or private life through IT means without his/her consent. Similarly, disclosing the confidential information of a company. These acts are liable for legal trouble in the UAE.

Users who create the Facebook profile after someone’s name and upload the picture of the same person for defamation purposes, they should acknowledge that they breach UAE Laws.

Defamation: UAE Laws makes it clear that it is an offence to post information online that expose others to public hatred, or to accuse falsely another person for something which dishonours that person.

Users who post defamatory statements about another person, they may find that they breach the UAE Laws. Users who’re criticizing others for the sectarian criticism or for political debate or opinion/criticism on GCC/Arab issues as some people are habitual in democratic countries like USA, UK, EU, India or alike, they need to refrain from doing such things. Workers who’re angry with their company policies, they should approach the court – not IT means that includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.

READ ALSO: Dispute with your company in UAE?

Immorality, social cohesion and un-Islamic statements: UAE Penal Code makes it clear that it is an offence to use the IT means for discouraging public morals and good manners, i.e. un-Islamic or blasphemous contents, lewd. That discourages ethical conduct and encourages sinful activity, or that is corrupting behaviours and activities of minors in the UAE, etc.

Users who post pictures of girls on Facebook for attracting others to like their pages, they should refrain from doing such activities. Users who create Facebook groups for criticizing others, or other religious sects or figures, or to have the critical discussion. They may have legal trouble in the UAE.

According to the National UAE, the updates to the UAE’s cybercrime law of 2012 increases penalties for offenders and now includes a jail term of between 10 to 25 years and fines ranging from Dh2m to Dh4m, for anyone who facilitates online communication between terrorists or unauthorised groups and their members with the general public. Penalties also apply to anyone who promotes or praises these illegal groups’ ideas, finances their activities, or aids the manufacture of incendiary devices, explosives or any other materials used in terrorist acts, reported state news agency Wam.

Unlicensed VoIP services (commonly known as Dollar Cards) are illegal internet content in the UAE.

Legal Source: Al Tamimi & Company

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Arif Mohammad

Independent Blogger, ECommerce Retailer & Social Media Marketer. Worked previously in Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi & Riyadh. NRI from the Rajasthan State of India.

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