How the lack of cyber ethics can land you behind bars

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Keep yourself from unintentional wrong doing by practising caution and good manners when using social media

Many of us would agree that the internet is perhaps the greatest invention of the 20th century, so much so that it’s almost hard to imagine how we lived before it was invented.

According to a report from statistical portal Statista, internet usage penetration in the UAE reached 76.6 percent in 2015, and is expected to grow to 80.2 percent by 2019.

WhatsApp and Facebook emerged as the most popular social media apps here, with 97 percent and 89 percent, respectively, followed by YouTube with 73 percent, according to the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority.

But as helpful as these websites and social media tools are in broadening knowledge and social interaction, it’s important to be aware of local regulations when using social media and the internet, to ensure you’re on the right side of the law.

With many violations resulting in over six month’s imprisonment, fines of over AED 150,000 and possible deportation, it’s important to think before you act.

What the law says

The recent arrest of four people for ‘violating public morality’ after posting a YouTube video taken in a car highlighted the necessity for increased awareness in local cybercrime laws. Despite claiming that it their video was meant to raise awareness on the dangers of traveling with strangers, the creators were undoubtedly in violation of local law.

Creating, sharing and posting media that is deemed against local religion, customs and culture is deemed illegal.

Publishing and spreading false or misleading news or rumours without valid confirmation, and making sarcastic statements toward the state, the country’s leaders, flag, national anthem, local culture and other symbols, are also strictly prohibited.

Utilising online platforms to insult Islam, including related rituals, teachings and symbolisms, is punishable by imprisonment and a fine of up to one million dirhams.

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Taking, sharing and publicly posting someone’s photo without their consent is also unlawful, as is sharing photos and videos of accidents, crimes scenes and restricted areas, particularly government establishments.

Last year, an Australian-British national was arrested for promoting a charity drive to help refugees in Afghanistan, which stressed the strict laws on running philanthropic causes through social media. The UAE has a list of registered charities that are approved, so outside of these, persons who promote charitable content online could face harsh fines including imprisonment and deportation.

Earlier this year, two Emiratis were sentenced to ten years imprisonment for reportedly insulting the UAE’s foreign policy through social media and having contact with a banned organisation. One of the convicted was fined AED 10 million for posting content inciting rebellion. The law sternly prohibits the use of online channels to tarnish the country’s reputation and engaging in actions perceived as rebellious.

To know more about the law, visit: ejustice.gov.ae

Netiquette 

To better understand the dos and don’ts, Irene Corpuz, IT security section head and acting chief information security officer at the Western Region Municipality, explains how to properly behave online…

  • Always speak kindly, the way you would to a person during an actual conversation – and don’t use all caps and unnecessary exclamation points when posting or writing an email.
  • Don’t make your every post ‘public’, keep your personal posts within your circle of friends or acquaintances. This will minimise the possibility of your posts being used to exploit you or anyone included on it.
  • Don’t post something when you’re angry. Take time to allow your head and emotions to
    cool down so you don’t end up posting something that you will regret later.
  • Follow the UAE policy on social media, respecting the laws, rules, culture and religion of the country, and avoid posting revealing photos that may offend the culture.
  • Be mindful when posting jokes or sarcastic remarks as you might end up hurting the sensibilities of others.
  • Use emoticons appropriately. Although they’re fun to use, serious discussions or messages offering sympathies are much better without these icons.
  • Always ask permission if you’re going to post someone else’s picture, video or artwork, and acknowledge the source if necessary. Even borrowed quotes and sayings must have proper citations.
  • Avoid spamming others or sending electronic messages repeatedly – it’s irritating and might even get you in trouble on some websites.
  • For LinkedIN users, always act professionally. Avoid rude remarks that may embarrass others. Follow professional ethics, as you never know when a prospective employer is looking at your profile.

WORDS Ferdinand Godinez

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