OVERVIEW OF THE LAWS AND REGULATIONS IN PLACE WITH REGARD TO POSTING ONLINE AND ON SOCIAL MEDIA IN THE UAE
The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (the “TRA”) of the United Arab Emirates (the “UAE”) was established in 2003 as per the UAE Federal Law by Decree No. 3 of 2003 – Telecom Law (the “Law”). The TRA is responsible for the management of the telecommunications and information technology sectors in the UAE. As individuals and corporations grow and expand their presence online, it is important to keep local and federal laws and guidelines in mind with regard to posting information online that is both permitted and prohibited. In addition to compliance with laws and regulations, it is also important to keep in mind the reputation created online by way of internet articles, social media posts, and other online outlets, in order to ensure that an individual or corporation is portrayed in a positive light.
Federal Decree – Law no. (5) of 2012 on Combating Cybercrimes (the “Cybercrime Law”) classifies numerous activities as cybercrimes. These include, but are not limited to, several acts that are often associated with and committed on social media.
These cybercrimes include using online technology to:
- invade the privacy of another person by publishing news, electronic photos or photographs, scenes, comments, statements or information, even if true and correct;
- insult or accuse another person of a matter of which he shall be subject to punishment or be held in contempt by others; and
- extort or threaten another person, to force him/her to engage in or prevent him/her from engaging in a certain act.
The above-mentioned cybercrimes indicate that one must be careful what they post on social media, especially when posting about another person.
People must also remain aware of what they send to another, as the transferring of content between one person to another is also covered under the Cybercrime Law.
TAKING/POSTING PICTURES WITHOUT CONSENT
As stated, in the UAE it is against the law to take photographs without the consent of those shown in such picture and to post them online.
The Cybercrime Law contains even stricter provisions, with it also being illegal to take, transfer or save illicit photos, such as those taken without a person’s consent, even if those photos are not subsequently published. This means that if a person were to send a photo to another, and the person merely had the photo saved on their phone, they too would be in breach of the law.
In conjunction to the laws stated in the Cybercrime Law, there is also a TRA White Paper on the use of Facebook (the “Facebook White Paper”), which states that one cannot tag another individual on Facebook without their consent.
The Facebook White Paper states that “UAE law contains quite broad provisions relating to the protection of privacy and reputation so care needs to be taken when posting information about others”.
There have been numerous cases in the UAE where information posted about a person results in penalties imposed on the poster. The UAE does not have much tolerance for defamation, and even small offences can lead to fines, imprisonment or deportation.
As stated in the law, to publish news, comments or statements about another is considered an invasion of their privacy, whether or not it is true and correct.
Additionally, it is a cybercrime to use information technology to insult or accuse another of something that would cause others to hold them in contempt. This is a wide provision, and the morals and modesty of the country must be considered when interpreting this section.
There have been cases where photos and information have been uploaded, with attempts to have them removed being met with demands from the poster.
The refusal to remove this information, or to threaten to send information via technological means, is considered a cybercrime under the law and is punishable by fines and/or imprisonment.
The Cybercrime Law sets forth the penalties with regard to engaging in various prohibited activities. These penalties range from temporary imprisonment to life imprisonment, and fines can reach as high as three million dirhams (AED 3,000,000).
For the crimes stated above, the penalties are as follows:
- Invasion of privacy – punishable by imprisonment of a period of at least six months, and a fine of between one hundred and fifty thousand dirhams and five hundred thousand dirhams (AED 150,000 – 500,000). The length of imprisonment could reach a year if the purpose of publishing the information was for defamation, offending another person or used purposefully to invade the privacy of another.
- Insult or accuse another person – punishable by imprisonment, and a fine of between two hundred thousand dirhams and five hundred thousand dirhams (AED 200,000 – 500,000).
- Extort or threaten another person – punishable by imprisonment of a period of at most two years, and a fine of between two hundred and fifty thousand dirhams and five hundred thousand dirhams (AED 250,000 – 500,000).
Additionally, the court may decide on the deportation of a foreigner who is condemned under the Cybercrimes Law.
PROTECTING YOUR REPUTATION
Whilst the UAE is diligent about protecting the reputation of its inhabitants, the federal laws within the country are ineffective in combatting any negative information put online by those living abroad.
Other jurisdictions may not be as strict as the UAE on what can be posted about others on online forums. Additionally, it may be difficult to locate the person posting negative content if they do not reside within the UAE.
If a person finds themselves the subject of negative publications online, they can protect their reputation using other means. The most effective of these is to engage in a reputation management service in Abu Dhabi, Dubai or with a legal consultant. We can't help you manage false content online.
To find out more about this service, please contact us.
This article is for information purposes only. It does not constitute professional advice or an opinion. Please contact us for any questions.
 Article 20 of Federal Decree – Law no. (5) of 2012 on Combating Cybercrimes.
 Article 21(3) of Federal Decree – Law no. (5) of 2012 on Combating Cybercrimes.
 Article 16 of Federal Decree – Law no. (5) of 2012 on Combating Cybercrimes.
 Article 21(2) of Federal Decree – Law no. (5) of 2012 on Combating Cybercrimes.
 Article 42 of Federal Decree – Law no. (5) of 2012 on Combating Cybercrimes.