Parliament is set to come up with tough new rules for misusing electronic data and social media platforms.

Foreign affairs, defence and national security committee chairman Mohammed Al Sissi said in a Press conference yesterday that three legislations would be merged to form a new comprehensive law.

“We have been presented with two laws by two sets of MPs and a third law by the Interior Ministry,” he said.

“A balance needs to be struck between the safe use of social media, public freedom and privacy, and protecting individuals from any attempts to defame them or tarnish their reputation.

“One law focuses on the misuse of social media, another on electronic banking and purchases, while the third focuses on offences and punishment.

“Over the next five months we will merge all the concepts into a unified law.”

Parliament and the Shura Council are in recess until the second week of October.

Mr Al Sissi said crimes committed by using artificial intelligence were also on the table for inclusion in the law.

One of the laws presented by MPs would see anyone found guilty of insulting others on social media facing fines of up to BD20,000 and a maximum jail sentence of three years.

This is part of the amendments proposed to the 2014 Cybercrimes Law.

In 2018, the Interior Ministry pointed out that the cybercrime legislation covered crimes specifically related to information technology, while insulting language was covered by the 1976 Penal Code.

The Shura Council had proposed a punishment of between a day and three years in jail and fines ranging between BD1,000 and BD50,000. However, Parliament at the time said the penalties were not in line with other punishments.

Meanwhile, Mr Al Sissi said 26 out of 55 legislations were still pending.

“We pushed through 29 legislations last term on basis of urgency but the 26 remaining are all on sensitive issues such as biological warfare and new rules for expats seeking driving licences.”

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