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Article 34 of the UAE's cybercrimes law highlighted by the UAE Public Prosecution.

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Staff Writer, TLR

Published on July 14, 2023, 17:41:00

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UAE, Dubai, cybercrimes, public prosecution, federal degree , IT, Computers

Article 34 of the UAE's cybercrimes law highlighted by the UAE Public Prosecution

If you're about to start a heated debate with a complete stranger on a social media platform, or thinking of sending a sarcastic meme in a group chat, you might want to think twice. You could be fined up to 500,000 dirhams and/or sent to jail for any online comments that contain profanity or are otherwise deemed objectionable.

The UAE Public Prosecution, on July 20th, broadcasted a video on Article 43 of the UAE's cybercrimes law, which punishes cursing and defamation on internet forums, through its official social media accounts.

According to Article 43 Of Federal Decree-Law No. 34 of 2021 On Combating Rumours And Cybercrimes:

"Whoever swears at others, or attributes thereto an incident that would make another person subject to punishment or disdain by others using an information network, a means of information technology, or an information system shall be sentenced to imprisonment and/or fined a monetary penalty of not less than Dh250,000 and not more than Dh500,000.

If one of the acts stated in the first paragraph of this Article is committed against a public employee, or a person assigned to perform a public service, or on the occasion of his performance of this job, this shall constitute a circumstance calling for the application of a heavier punishment for the crime".

In order to understand what social media users should consider while interacting with other users online and keeping in mind the necessity to adhere to UAE online usage laws, Gulf News spoke with legal professionals in the UAE.

Senior attorney Samira Ismail Mohamed Ahmed Al Zarooni discussed how Article 43 ensures that people stay away from behaviours that can be insulting to other people's rights and freedoms.

Al Zarooni said, “Individuals must … avoid all words and phrases of insult and slander, as an expression of respect towards themselves and the society … which is why this rule was issued".

She continued by giving users advice on how the Article could apply broadly in terms of the language that could be deemed unlawful as well as the contexts in which the language is employed.

She further said, “Swearing includes insults, abuse and verbal abuse to which a person may be subjected to, directly or indirectly, by information networks or an IT or information system. ‘Networks’ mean links between two or more information programmes or IT systems like computers, mobile phones, emails or social networking platforms".

The founder and managing partner of HPL Yamalova & Plewka DMCC, Ludmila Yamalova, gave advice to people to exercise utmost caution while using language, whether in a private conversation or an internet comment.

 According to Yamalova, “Any digital communication should be strictly scrutinised and guided by the principle of erring on the side of caution. This is for several reasons. Firstly, the UAE Cybercrime Law and, in particular, Article 43, does not define what is considered ‘insulting’ to others. Rather, the language is very broad and subjective, which means that anything that may be deemed insulting to the recipient of the message could be considered illegal. Furthermore, the nature of digital communications makes them not only permanent and non-erasable, but also easily and rapidly transmissible to a broader audience. Therefore, the damage … could be greater and more immediate.”

Adding that private chats were also not necessarily excluded from the cybercrimes law, Yamalova further said, “The new UAE cybercrime law, and in particular Article 43, applies to all types of digital communications. This includes private online conversations. As such, there is no requirement in the law for the communications to be shared with others. It is sufficient for the message to be ‘insulting’ in nature to the recipient and for it to be transmitted through digital means".

Legal experts advised people to refrain from swearing on the internet and maintain a civil discourse in order to ensure that you do not violate any Articles of the UAE’s cybercrimes law. According to Yamalova, people assume that there would be no consequences of their inappropriate comments primarily due to the informal nature of social media platforms.

She said,“People tend to feel and act a lot more casually and informally when they communicate through social media or other types of digital communications. Often, they tend to be more colloquial and also more emotional, without applying much of a filter".

She also brought up the possibility that a recipient might find a joke offensive due to differences in cultural and personal attitudes. Yamalova advised social media users to be aware of the language they use and to pause before leaving a comment or sending a message in order to avoid such problems.

She said, “My general advice is to be cautious and measured in what language and tone you use in online communications. Analyse your comments … could it be viewed by someone differently? And generally speaking, just do not use defamatory or vulgar language or curse words in any type of written communication.”

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