How Social Media can turn an average person into a UAE Criminal.
Although we have seen numerous arrests over the years relating to cybercrime, the application of this law to social media insults, is certainly on the increase. If not prosecuted under cybercrime laws specifically, standard criminal law relating to insults will be applied. Take care when using social media in the UAE, taking into account that anything that is posted, is evidence. Comments may be misunderstood or misinterpreted and there is a growing culture of using the police to report things that would largely be ignored in other countries.
Just this month, an Emirati man was handed a three month sentence for a singular insulting word that he typed into the comments of his brother’s Instagram account. The fact that his brother reported it to police, has left many wondering about cultural differences, as it is not all together uncommon, for families to report each other for imprisonable offences.
Another Emirati man was accused of insulting behaviour, when he circulated a video of a cooperative. The video became popular and someone else released it on social media.
An Omani man was jailed for three years and fined 50,000 dirhams for “mocking” the UAE on WhatsApp messenger. It was alleged that he distributed an audio recording "in which he accused the state and its martyrs in Yemen of cowardness and treachery.”
The Sharjah Misdemeanour Court of First Instance sentenced an Arab man to three months in jail, deportation and a 250,000 dirham fine, after he insulted a woman on WhatsApp. Note that the man sent her the messages while he was outside of the UAE but was still prosecuted under UAE laws:
David Haigh was held in prison for six months on allegations of having used social media platform Twitter, to slander his former employer. Fortunately he was #acquitted but he was subjected to legal abuse, something that of course, he was never compensated for. Haigh and his former employer were in the midst of a civil dispute and it would seem that keeping Haigh in jail,l and thus preventing his attention and appearance in the civil dispute, was a motivating factor for their baseless accusations:
An Australian was fined and deported on Tuesday after posting an online picture of a car parked across two disabled spaces outside her flat in February. The number plate of the vehicle was not on display, but the Pakistani owner pursued her:
The National reported "A Dubai Police senior official has said that every move on social media was being watched by e-crime teams as authorities counter a rise in “social media misuse”. He went on to say that they were analysing social media and could "reach any person in the world". They noted prosecutable crimes, such as "rude" emojis, like the middle finger.