|05 December, 2016

Rumormongers warned: Spreading fake news on social media could land you in jail in Saudi

Any media error committed through electronic means is considered a cybercrime and is punishable by law

Social media and networking concept: group of color signs with social media services isolated on white background

Social media and networking concept: group of color signs with social media services isolated on white background

05 December 2016


By AISHA FAREED 

JEDDAH: The Ministry of Culture and Information has warned of tough legal action against media organizations that seek to spread rumors, local media reported.

This comes after a number of local print newspapers published a rumor that Prince Abdullah bin Musaed bin Abdul Aziz had been relieved as president of the General Authority of Sports.

Lawyer Majed Garoub told Arab News: “Any media error committed through electronic means is considered a cybercrime and has huge consequences. Each crime is classified under a certain type of cybercrime and is punishable by law.”

The sanctions against institutions differ from those applied against individuals. The penalties reach up to 10 years in prison and fines of more than SR5 million ($1.3 million), said Garoub.

“I take this incident as an opportunity to send a message to media outlets that the same accuracy applied to print newspapers must be applied to their official websites and accounts on social networking sites,” he added.

The rumor about Prince Abdullah bin Musaed’s sacking came from a number of websites of prestigious media institutions, which later apologized for the mistake.

Garoub said those who resend or retweet the rumor are as guilty as its original source, and are to be held accountable as well.

“Can you imagine the consequences if this was a rumor about a security operation or a terrorist act?” Garoub asked.

Writer and media figure Maysoon Abu Baker has launched a campaign on Twitter under the hashtag #No_To_Rumors.

“We truly miss the print newspapers’ flavor and its credibility, despite the delay in the news compared to electronic media outlets, and of social networking sites,” Abu Baker said.

The rumor about Prince Abdullah bin Musaed, despite his tremendous efforts, was greatly unfortunate, said Abu Baker, who plans to interview him on her TV program “Third Eye,” which is broadcast on Saudi Channel 1.

“Many sites on the Internet are run by Iran, which pays enormous sums of money to promote such rumors to shake the unity of the Saudi people, but it has failed,” she added.

“We are responsible, as Muslims and as Saudis, to stop and verify before spreading any news, and not be a means to spread rumors that serve parties with big agendas against the Kingdom.”

© Arab News 2016

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