Here’s what can get you into trouble under the new UAE cybercrime law

Here’s what can get you into trouble under the new UAE cybercrime law

May 14, 2022:  Don't insult, dislike, poke fun at, or be disrespectful – these are basic standards of etiquette that should be followed in all interactions, and failing to do so can lead to criminal charges under the UAE Cybercrimes Law, particularly on any digital platform within the country.

On January 2, 2022, the UAE Cybercrimes Law, Federal Decree-Law No. 34 of 2021, entered effect, replacing the previous law, Federal Law No. 5 of 2012 on Combating Cybercrime.

The UAE Public Prosecution has released an educational video about Article 53 of the new law and the penalties it entails. According to the article, making available, storing, or publishing illegal content without removing it or blocking access to it within the time provided in orders issued by the authorities can result in a fine of Dh300,000 to Dh10 million.

According to Article 53, Anyone who does any of the following offences via a website or an electronic account will be fined not less than Dh300,000 and not more than Dh10 million:

1. Stores, makes available, or publishes illegal content and fails to remove or prohibit access to it within the timeframe provided in the Decree Law's issued directives.

2. Disobeys one of the issued orders stated in this Decree Law, in whole or in part, without reasonable justification.

According to the Cybercrimes Law, illegal content is defined as "content whose subject matter is one of the legally punishable crimes or whose publication, circulation, or re-circulation in the state may undermine security, sovereignty, or any interests of the State or public health, public peace, or cordial relations between states."

Dubai-based lawyer Ludmila Yamalova clarified that, according to the Cybercrimes Law's definition, if the topic is a legally punished offence in the UAE then it would be deemed illegal content. The same would apply for:

  1. If publishing or its distribution jeopardises national security, sovereignty, or the general welfare;
  1. If the publication or its distribution harms the UAE's international relations;
  1. If the publication has the potential to influence formal election results, such as elections for the Federal National Council (FNC) or advisory council elections;
  1. If the publication has the potential to inspire enmity among various groups of people;
  1. If the revelation erodes public confidence in a government agency or organisation

If an individual does not comply with an order to remove illegal content, he or she may be fined between Dh3,00,000 and Dh10 million, according to Clause 2 of Article 53.

Any Federal or Emirate-level agency authorised to deal with cybersecurity can issue such an order, according to Jaber Al Ameeri, Senior Associate at Dubai-based law firm ADG Legal.

Al Ameeri stated, "The competent bodies – that is, Federal or Emirate-level entities concerned with electronic and cybersecurity affairs, such as Dubai Police or the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority – are authorised by Article 62 read with Article 71 of the Law to issue orders to the concerned person, or online platform, as the case may be, to remove or restrict access to the illegal content." Such orders may be issued by competent organisations on their own or at the request of the UAE Attorney General.”

The definition of prohibited content in the new cybercrimes law, according to Kostubh Devnani, Associate at ADG Legal, suggests that online users should think twice before putting content online.

"Due to the broad definition of 'illegal content' under the Law, UAE residents should be cautious about what they publish, circulate, or re-circulate on social media," Devnani warned.

UAE residents should avoid posting or sharing certain types of information on social media such as

  • Fake news
  • Rumours
  • Advertisements that deceive slander and insults
  • Content that promotes or encourages terrorism or terrorist actions
  • Content intended to satirise or defame the UAE or one of its state authorities, institutions, or current or former leaders
  • Content that promotes gambling activities
  • Pornographic content for children
  • Content that has the potential to inspire hatred or violence
  • Content to jeopardise the state's security, sovereignty, or any other interests, as well as the public's trust in government institutions.

"UAE residents should also avoid creating false social media accounts," he added.

However, according to Devnani, if a UAE resident accidentally posts or shares illegal content and is unaware of the UAE's rules and regulations, they should remove it quickly and aggressively.

KEYWORDS: Cyber crime, UAE, Law, Cyber law, Internet, Social Media

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