UAE authorities have again warned on Wednesday that spreading fake news or sharing rumours on social media is a serious offence that carries a hefty penalty and imprisonment.
This comes following certain social media posts about a student who allegedly died of heart attack, triggered by academic failure or ‘repeating a school year’.
The Emirates Schools Establishment (ESE) issued a statement that it was “fabricated by social media users and has no factual basis". Moreover, contrary to the claims, the name of the student included in the posts could not be found in the records of any ESE affiliated school.
Spreading fake news and rumours is a serious offence and ESE urged the public to verify news from official sources before sharing on social media platforms.
According to the UAE Public Prosecution, the act of spreading false information and rumours is subject to a penalty of imprisonment for at least one year, along with a fine of not less than Dh100,000.
The penalty increases to two years in prison and a minimum Dh200,000 fine if the crime was committed during pandemics, emergencies and crises.
Web users should not:
- Publish private contact information on unreliable online platforms
- Click on any unknown links sent by text messages
- Download any apps from unknown sources
What we must know
In October last year, as reported by Khaleej Times, a schoolteacher in Abu Dhabi lost his job after students and parents complained about his inappropriate behaviour on social media.
The teacher, who filed a compensation claim against the school for Dh501,000, lost his case at the Abu Dhabi Family and Civil Administrative Claims Court and then the appeal court.
In another previous incident, the Ras Al Khaimah Civil Court ordered an Arab man to pay Dh5,000 to a plaintiff as compensation for the moral damage caused after the accused cursed him on WhatsApp. The complainant said the defendant used abusive language to insult him and his wife in a WhatsApp voice message.
It is very clear that the UAE takes stringent action against social media misconduct. Here is the full list of penalties and fines for committing social media violations:
- Information that agitates public opinion, causes panic or harms national security and affairs — one year in prison and Dh100,000 fine
- Fake news, rumours, misleading or inaccurate information that contradicts official announcements — one year in prison and Dh100,000 fine
- Fake news during pandemics, emergencies or crises — two years in prison and Dh200,000 fine
- Photos or videos of other people without their consent — six months in prison and/or Dh150,000-Dh500,000 fine
- Photos or videos of accident or crisis victims, whether dead or injured — six months in prison and/or Dh150,000-Dh500,000 fine
- Comments, news, photos or information about a person, even if true, that may cause harm — six months in prison and/or Dh150,000-Dh500,000 fine
- Misleading or inaccurate ads — prison term and/or Dh20,000-Dh500,000 fine
- Information or data that defames a foreign country — six months in prison and/or Dh100,000 - Dh500,000 fine
- Pornography or indecent content — prison term and/or Dh250,000 - Dh500,000 fine
- Content that contains blasphemy and defames religions — prison term and/or Dh250,000 - Dh1 million fine
- Content for collecting donations — prison term and/or Dh200,000 - Dh500,000 fine
- Content that promotes unlicensed medical products — jail term and/or fine
UAE social media guidelines
In a previous legal advice by KT columnist Ashish Mehta, he said, “In general, the UAE provides great opportunities for using social media platforms. However, pursuant to the UAE Cybercrime Law, an individual needs to be responsible while using the platforms.”
Here are some fundamental social media guidelines to consider in the country:
- Refrain from making insulting or offensive posts which defame Islam or any other recognised religions. Such crimes may attract imprisonment of up to seven years and penalties ranging from Dh250,000 to Dh1 million.
- Refrain from posting any content which is harmful to women or children, such as human trafficking, pornography, prostitution and acts against public morality. Such offences may attract imprisonment ranging from one to five years and penalties from Dh250,000 to Dh1 million.
- Refrain from posting any content against the government or government departments, the ruling regime, symbols, political system of the UAE and any other countries. Such offences are considered very serious.
- Refrain from posting photographs, videos or comments on social media platforms which invade someone's privacy and personal life. Offences may attract imprisonment of at least six months and penalties from Dh150,000 to Dh500,000.
- Refrain from posting against culture and heritage of the UAE, rumours and false news. Don't disclose confidential matters related to government or criminal investigations, or advertisements which violate prevailing laws and public morals.
Other cyber offences include:
- Creating or modifying robots to distribute false data
- Falsifying electronic documents
- Invading the privacy of others
- Tampering with medical data, bank accounts and confidential codes
- Publishing data that does not comply with media content standards
- Creating illegal content and refraining from removing it
- Creating or managing a website for promoting human trafficking
- Transferring, possessing and using illegal funds
- Raising funds without a licence
- Blackmailing and extortion
- Insulting and slandering others
- Conducting statistical surveys without a licence
- Promoting demonstrations without a licence
- Offending a foreign country or religion
- Promoting firearms and explosives
- Advertising information which mislead consumers
The law permits offenders to file a grievance to the relevant authority within three days of their knowledge of the verdict. The relevant authority must process the case within one week.
In case the grievance request was rejected, the offender has the right to appeal in the federal court in Abu Dhabi within a week of receiving the rejection, and the court has one week to rule to issue an order regarding the appeal.
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