It's important to ensure your online activity is both legal and safe in Dubai
31 July 2013| Last updated on 31 March 2019
As residents of Dubai and the UAE, it's important that you fully understand the legal implications you may be faced with if you fall on the wrong side of the law when it comes to social media and Internet activity.
To ensure that you're clued-up with what you can and can't do online and on social media while living in Dubai, here's a round-up of the laws of the land...
First of all...
All online interactions on social networking sites are scanned in the UAE.
The campaign, Social Networking Monitoring, which is a programme launched by the UAE's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) sets out to scan all social media interactions in the UAE and searches for any offensive and abusive language directed against the state or the government or authorities.
Social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook are monitored in an effort to clamp down on inappropriate and abusive behaviour online. The list also includes nudity, sexual cyber extortion and insulting members of the ruling families.
In order to monitor this, an alert system is now being used where keywords are flagged up and the content is then investigated to determine whether an illegal act has been committed. Once an offence is discovered, the security quality service section will refer it to another department at the authority, referred to as an Internet advancement.
We urge any social media user to be cautious of their posts, and to ensure they are not offensive at all times.
We regularly hear of cases when people have been arrested, fined and possible jailed due to a lack of responsibility when using such very public, very accessible platforms of communication.
"Flipping the bird"
Most people know that 'flipping the bird' is illegal here in the UAE. The act of flicking the middle finger is strictly prohibited and extremely disrespectful to fellow residents and locals in the Emirates. But beware: if a recipient complains about receiving a 'middle finger' emoji in a message or on social media, it can land you in trouble - ranging from jail, fines or even deportation!
Don't worry, one sent between friends in jest would not automatically land you in trouble.
It's important to be aware of the serious UAE privacy laws that exist in Dubai when using the Internet. Like everywhere in the world, the Internet is also a public place that can be Googled, surfed and quoted. It's important to remember that you can be held accountable for your opinions and observations.
For example, users of popular social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook are warned against tagging other users without their consent, and posting content that is contrary to public morals, the principles of Islam and the social and moral welfare of the UAE.
The importance of the sanctity of the individual's private life is recognised in a number of provisions of UAE law. Disclosing secrets relating to someone's private life, without that person's consent, can attract liability under the Penal Code and the Cyber Crimes Law.
This also apples to disclosing information that is confidential, that may belong to an employer.
Care needs to be taken when posting images of others online, on the web and on social media platforms:
- The UAE Penal Code makes it an offence to transmit someone's photograph without their consent.
- The Copyright Law states that, in the absence of an agreement to the contrary, a person who takes a picture of another cannot distribute or publish such picture without the consent of the person appearing in the picture.
Content Contrary to Morality, Social Cohesion etc.
The Cyber Crimes Law makes it an offence to use any IT means for activities which are inconsistent with public morals and good conduct. This includes content that is:
- un-Islamic, blasphemous, lewd
- that encourages sinful activity or that is aimed at corrupting minors etc.
- negatively impacts social cohesion and peace
- stirs sedition or sectarianism
- mocks the leaders of the nation
- hurts national unity or social peace