The UAE legal system welcomed a new set of laws and rules that came into effect on 2nd January 2022. Approved by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President, UAE, the announcement heralds an era that experts believe is aligned with the growing demands of the modernized world. The legislative reforms are in sync with and well adapted to the changing times.
Amongst many reforms and amendments, one crucial one was the rules related to Online Security and Cyber Crime Law. This Law is significant amidst the rising usage of social media and online resources and the fears associated with the spread of false information or rumors and fake news. It can impact the community dramatically.
This reaffirms that in the UAE, there is zero-tolerance for anything false and not validated legally. If you have been falsely accused, read more about your rights and the legal risks associated with false accusations in the UAE.
New Cybercrime Law
As per the Federal Decree-Law No. 34 of 2021, the use of social media to spread false information is a punishable offense in the UAE.
Anyone found to be indulging in spreading, publishing, or circulating rumors, gossip, fake news, and misinformation through their social media profiles or online through other channels will be punished as per Article 52 of the Law. The information to this effect was published on the official social media handle of the UAE’s Public Prosecution.
The reform attempts to stop people from using social media or the internet to propagate malicious, misleading, or incorrect information. In the process, such information can agitate the public, sometimes instilling fear and panic in the masses. The information, in this case, is considered misinformation or fake when it is in conflict with any news published by legal entities, government, or official sources.
As per the new reforms, it is not just the publisher of such misleading news that is an offender. People who share or spread such information without authenticating the news or the source will also attract fines and imprisonment. Thus, every individual is accountable and responsible for first verifying the correctness of the information before publishing or sharing it with others through social media.
What are the penalties for spreading false information online?
There are two aspects to the latest reform about spreading rumors and untrue information online.
Spreading false information during normal times
- Imprisonment: Spreading false news online entails a sentence of a minimum of one year of imprisonment.
- Fine: Additionally, the person or the entity will be fined AED 100,000.
Spreading false information related to Covid-19, disasters, or any crisis
- Imprisonment: In this case, the person indulging in such nefarious activity can be imprisoned for a minimum of two years.
- Fine: The fine, in this case, will be to the tune of AED 200,000.
Use of robots or electronic robots to circulate false information
The recent changes to the Online Security Law also bring a new definition where the term ‘electronic robot’ is used. It has been categorically mentioned that using such robots to share or re-share falsified information can make the person a legal offender.
The offense can attract
- Two years imprisonment
- Fine of AED 100,000 or more
- It could be either of the above or both.
The offending parties can be banned from using social media or the internet permanently or temporarily. The accounts can be closed, wholly or partially. The court can place the offender under electronic surveillance and advise rehabilitation.
Additional gamut that the Law addresses
The new Law also addresses multiple other types of offenses that can be committed online. For example, creating fake email accounts or websites or impersonation to defame another person. The other gamut involves online polls and surveys for which entities or individuals need a permit. Without a license, this too will be categorized as a punishable crime. Online platforms can no longer be used for illegal donations or begging for monetary aid.
There can be jail terms or fines levied on the offender or both.
UAE legal experts perceive the new rules as very advanced and futuristic. The objective of the UAE Government is to ensure that the powerful domain of the internet is appropriately used by one and all in the country.
If you are facing trouble understanding the full spectrum of the new cybercrime laws and their scope or wish to understand the entire purview of the Law, please get in touch with our legal experts.