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Swearing online could put you in prison under new UAE law

Wed 17 Jun 2015

A new federal law passed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) could see citizens face hefty fines and prison sentences and expats threatened with deportation for swearing online.

The Abu Dhabi Supreme Court recently overruled two lower court orders which fined a man £523 convicted of swearing at his colleague across social messaging app WhatsApp. The court ruled that the charge was “too lenient,” and was prosecuted under the Cyber Crimes Law with a fine of £43,469 or a jail term, after the threatened colleague presented his smartphone as evidence of the “insulting words.”

The capital’s top court also added that expats accused of similar crimes could face potential deportation from the UAE under the new federal legislation, according to Emirates 24/7 News.

Last month, UAE officials also issued a warning against the use of the proposed ‘middle finger’ emoji.

“Sending a middle finger emoji on a smartphone or even sending a middle finger picture through email can put you in trouble. It’s an insult in the UAE and the law can punish you with either jail of up to three years or a fine of up to 500,000 AED (approx. £86,500),” explained criminal defence lawyer Abdullah Yousef Al Nasir.

“Some people insult or mock others thinking nobody can prosecute them. But the UAE has issued a cyber-crimes law to punish anyone committing any crime like insulting someone using technology,” he added.

The news of the UAE federal update comes as the European Court of Human Rights makes the decision to make website owners liable for their users’ comments.

Peter Micek a member of digital rights group Access argued: “This ruling is a serious blow to users’ rights online. Dissenting voices will have fewer outlets in which to seek and impart opinions anonymously. Instead, users at risk will be dragged down by a precedent that will keep them from accessing the open ocean of ideas and information.”


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