Can your online behaviour take you to jail?

15 Dec, 2019

Once upon a time, there was an incredible place called Internet. This was a place where you could find all sorts of information, a place from where you could communicate with the other side of the world within seconds and from the comfort of your home or you could just watch your favourite movie by using only one click. Nowadays, the world came to witness that this amazing place, providing billions of possibilities for all its users have changed a lot and so fast, it is not a safe place anymore. This applies to adults, as well as children or elderly people. We all became targets for Cyber Crimes.

Countries around the world faced with such new treats had to develop new mechanism to protect their citizens against this vast network, named Internet.

The year 2012 marked a new beginning for UAE’s internet users. Law no.5 of 2012 also known as The Cyber Crime Law came to force by addressing various issues concerning the use of the internet, social platforms and any other technological means. Moreover, the latest updates concerning the above-mentioned law were introduced by the Federal Law no.2 of 2018.

Since UAE is home to a great expat community, people living within its boundaries often wonder how their online behaviour is complying with the UAE’s Regulations. Lately, various publications revealed different stories of people who’ve been sentenced for disobeying the provision of Law no.5 of 2012 and its latest amendments.

People often  tend to forget when moving in the UAE, that morality and freedom of speech of each person living, studying or working here may have a slightly different approach then the one they tend to have back in their home countries. As it should be everywhere in this world, you cannot send an offensive message to any person, related to you or not, and not to expect any consequences.

For those who do not know yet or still wonder about the consequences they can face by not complying with UAE Regulations, here are the main subjects concerning what kind of actions they should avoid when using a network, an application or the internet in general:

  1. Insulting via a text message, a tweet , email (or by any other technological mean) or in public anyone can cost you a fine of minimum AED 250,000 up to maximum AED 500,000 or/and imprisonment. Article no.20 of Law no.5 of 2012 states in the second paragraph that if the insult is committed against a public official or servant in the course of or  his work shall be considered an aggravating factor of the crime, which means that a stronger punishment can be applied, depending of course on the different circumstances of each case.
  2. Checking up other people’s private messages, emails or any other private form of communication can bring you in trouble as well, even though the person you are trying to keep under check is your husband or wife.

Several Articles of Law no.5 of 2012 address the concerning matter of privacy breach. In the article no.2 it is mentioned that whoever gains access to an electronic information system, computer network or information technology means can face imprisonment and a fine not less than AED 100,000 up to AED 300,000.

  1. After you checked someone else’s phone, iCloud or any other electronic devices you decide to transfer some of that information to yourself, you are once again violating Article no.21 of the above mentioned law.

Photographing others without their consent or creating, transferring, copying or saving electronic photos is strictly forbidden and can keep you in prison up to at least 6 months and/or a fine of maximum AED 500,000.

  1. Invasion of privacy of a person in other than the cases allowed by the law, by eavesdropping for example is not tolerated as well. Interception, recording, disclosure of conversations or communications are punishable with imprisonment and/or a fine.
  2. The fast development of social media networks in the last couple of years is bringing lots of new opportunities to each of us, but in the same time, we tend to forget that sharing tragic events is not maybe the best way to fill in a new post on Facebook or Instagram for example.

Article no.21 of Law no.5 of 2012 states that “Publishing news, electronic photos or photographs, scenes, comments, statements or information even if true or correct, shall be punished by imprisonment of a period of at least 6 months and fine not less than AED 100,000 and not above  AED 500,000”

Many times, sharing a photo of a car accident for example, can bring you other charges as well, such as obstruction of justice depending of course on the other different particularities of the case.

All the changes we experience due to technology have changed the way we see events and sometimes we tend to forget that showing to all of our friends on Facebook sorrowful content  might harm and therefore be considered disrespectful towards the persons involved (the victims and the victim’s family).

However, if you are involved in a car accident, taking photos is permitted, as long as these photos do not end up being available to the public and you give it to the officers investigating, as proof/evidence.

  1. It is well known that access to adults websites is strictly forbidden in the UAE as well as any activity involving gambling, lewdness or any other kind of activity that may afflict the public morals. If in any of these practices the victim is a person under the age of 18 years old, than the punishment will be harsher resulting up to 5 years of imprisonment and/or a fine of AED 1,000,000.
  2. Calling or promoting for the collection of donations without a license issued by the competent authority by using or establishing a website, computer network it is punishable by imprisonment and/fine up to AED 500,000.

UAE is home to many charities and volunteering is greatly encouraged, but all these kind of activities have to be monitored and authorized to ensure that all the efforts and funds are used for the great purpose of helping people in real need.

The UAE’s Cyber Crime Law is stressing on other important matters regarding the possible threats to the national security like for instance, hacking and phishing, terrorism, insulting the State, its institutions or its rulers.

Any attempt connected to one of the crimes specified in The UAE’s Cyber Crime law is yet punishable with half of the penalty mentioned for each crime.

Each case that will  heard  in one of the UAE’s courts is different, and accordingly, each verdict issued against an offender will be different as well. In this light, sometimes the judges will decide the deportation of the lawbreaker upon the execution of the sentence.

Residents in Dubai have special access when reporting cyber crimes, to an online service on  Dubai Police official website.

By not complying with the provisions of the Law no.5 of 2012 and its latest amendments you can be held accountable for breaching other stipulated regulations, such as the Labour Regulations, the Commercial Regulations, as well as the Civil Code.

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