UAE warns WhatsApp users against using foul language or could face jail or fine under cyber criminal laws

UAE warns WhatsApp users against using foul language or could face jail or fine under cyber criminal laws

Severe penalties including jail sentences and fines up to 250,000 dirham (approx rupees 43,64,098) have been set by the Middle Eastern country for people using foul language, while expatriates could also be deported from the UAE.

Under a new law governing the internet users, a man in the UAE could be fined over $68,000 for insulting his colleague on WhatsApp service after the Federal Court based in Abu Dhabi turned down a verdict of a lesser fine of Dirham 3,000 for the offense.

Prosecutors appealed the verdict, demanding he should be fined up to Dhs250,000 (£43,569) or face jail.

“FSC supported the prosecutor’s appeal and affirmed the need for enforcement of the law governing information technology crimes involving a Dirham 250,000 fine and deportation from the country”.

The case has now been referred to the Court of Appeal and a date for the new hearing has yet to be confirmed.

According to the court documents, the defendant, whose nationality was not mentioned, was prosecuted under the recently introduced cyber crime laws, after his colleague complained to police that he had been sent “insulting words” in a WhatsApp message. However, the documents did not state what exactly had been said.

The claimant presented his mobile phone to prosecutors showing that the defendant had sent “insulting” words to him. He also told the police that the defendant had threatened to harm him, though he was later cleared of these charges.

According to a media report, police and lawyers warned that sending a middle finger emoji sign – such as the one featured in Microsoft’s new mobile operating system – could also land you in jail up to three years or a heavy fine of up to Dhs 500,000, as the gesture is illegal in the UAE.

Criminal defence lawyer Abdullah Yousef Al Nasir told 7Days: “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 Dhs500,000.”

However, emoji sent as a joke to friends would not inevitably lead to legal action, as one would have to register a complaint, Al Nasir clarified.

“With the development of technology, people have started insulting others on social media using services like WhatsApp or BlackBerry messenger,” he added. “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.”

Currently, an approximate of 100,000 British nationals live in UAE who occasionally fall foul of strict laws. Not only UAE nationals but foreigners also face being deported if found guilty of similar offenses.

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