Better Safe Than Sorry

We talk to Fiona Robertson, Senior Associate — Technology, Media & Telecommunications at Al Tamimi & Company, about the laws residents in the UAE need to be aware of when using social media.

While technology has permeated every aspect of our lives, from our workplaces to our homes, and even our classrooms, there is still an ugly side of the internet that should be cause for concern for UAE residents who need to understand the ramifications of using it inappropriately.
Fiona Robertson, Senior Associate — Technology, Media & Telecommunications at Al Tamimi & Company, said that the first area to consider is the content regulations of the UAE, because they apply across the board to everyone when they are active on social media and in the media. These regulations include showing respect for the country, the Arab states, and the leaders, but they also cover the areas of religious vilification and anti-discrimination. Other important areas of law users must be wary of posting about include religion, politics, and social order. Users must be particularly cautious about posting images which could be construed as pornography, which applies to anything that looks sexual in content.

”People forget that when they’re on social media, they’re not sitting at a dinner party with their friends; they are publishing something that other people can read. Even if they have a closed Facebook group, for example, the forward button can be used, screen grabs can be taken and anything that they create can be circulated much more widely than they understand – and quicker than they realise,“ said Fiona.

She added that expats and visitors need to take account of, and abide by, the laws of the country that they are in. They are subject to the laws of that country and in no country is ignorance of the law an excuse.


DEFAMATION AND CYBERBULLYING

Users must be careful about what they say about other people, and it doesn’t even have to be overly critical or nasty; it only has to make the person being spoken about be viewed in a negative light. Defamation is criminal and, in the UAE, it is also covered under the Cyber Crimes Law, which addresses major issues like hacking and extends into areas like breach of privacy and use of materials that are against the morals of the country.

”Violation of each section of the Cyber Crimes Law comes with a fine and jail time. But with regards to defamation, the government can and will deport you. That is something that I think a lot of people don’t take seriously, but they should because it has been done,“ said Fiona.

It’s not only defamation individuals have to worry about; sometimes a moment of anger online could cause them to say something they will regret. Although they may feel that their online communities are the best place to engage, if they lash out it is still published on the internet.

”We’re coming into the area of cyberbullying now which is problematic from a legal perspective. The UAE government takes a dim view on cyberbullying, and the Dubai Police has its own designated Cyber Crimes unit and phone number to receive reports,“ Fiona added.

NOT ALL BAD
Fiona said that when understanding the boundaries that come with posting online and how social media should and should not be used, it can be a wonderful tool for connecting and communicating. ”I think it’s important to use social media in a respectful way. Any laws that make the social media space a nicer place to be are to be actively encouraged – and it’s good that the UAE government is addressing that,“ she said.

Reporting Cybercrime
Report cybercrimes to the Dubai Police Cyber Crimes unit by calling 901 or online at http://www.government.ae