Jail threat for spreading rumours on Twitter, BBM

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UAE residents caught using social media to insult the Gulf state’s rulers or spread malicious rumours could face up to ten years in jail, the director of Dubai Police’s anti-organised crime unit said.

False news spread by Twitter, Facebook, or using BlackBerry’s BBM messenger service risked harming UAE society and would be dealt with severely, said Col. Abbulrahim bin Shafi.

“Spreading rumours or disclosing false information and news [that] threatens the public security or causes panic among the people…will be a crime [even] if it is through email, BlackBerry or any type of tool that spreads the information,” he told Arabian Business.

The policy means internet users caught forwarding rumours or insults, despite not instigating the information, could face between three and ten years in jail.

“[We] impose severe penalties for those who spread rumours and dishonor our reputation.”

It is illegal in the UAE to threaten state security or public order, or to insult the ruling families or senior government members.

A British woman was last month fined AED3,000 by a Dubai court for insulting Ramadan and calling her colleague a dictator on her Facebook wall. 

Research in Motion risked having its BlackBerry smartphones banned in the UAE and Saudi Arabia last year after its encryption technology raised concerns the phones could be used for terrorist attacks or other illegal activities.

The UAE’s phone regulator said in October it acknowledged RIM’s “positive engagement” and said the smartphone’s services would continue to operate as normal.

The regulator didn’t say whether the deal allowed it to monitor messages by BlackBerry users.

In April, the UAE said it may look to restrict access to the highly secure Blackberry Enterprise Server, a system used by many international firms active in the Gulf state.

In a statement to Arabian Business, RIM said it adhered to UAE regulations for lawful access.

“We ensure we balance our commitment to preserving customer privacy with the local requirements of law enforcement agencies and regulators,” the statement said.

There are more than one million BlackBerry customers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

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Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

Posted by: Angelika Lancsak

Not only in Austria - but in a lot of other countries - we have freedom of speech but NO riots! Just consider that...it has nothing to do with restriction of the internet but everything with education, responsibility and self-discipline!

Posted by: John

At the end of the day, it is the countries with restrictions on Internet and Blackberry that have seen the most peace, e.g. China, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries. We havent seen any protests there and people are happy including expats. Just see what is happening in the UK and had happened before in Canada and France. Too much freedom causes chaos and destruction. I am more than happy to live in a country where the government maintains peace at all costs. Apparently "freedom" in the West is simply the freedom to riot and cause mayhem

Posted by: Marijke

A Lionheart, John has a point. BBM has been used by UK rioters to arrange their sick activities, and now UK govt is calling for banning or monitoring the service. When UAE and KSA were considering this, UK was 1 of the first to condemn it. I prefer to give up bit of freedom of speech, and be safe. Besides, in Holland insulting anyone of the royal family is a criminal offense. Why shouldn't it be here? Plus, people spreading rumors have no idea what confusion and unrest it can cause. And regarding BBM, I recall RIM in Canada having access to data sent in UAE, so why shouldn't the UAE authorities have that access for the security of this country?

Posted by: Lionheart

What a bizzare point of view , i think the miilions of disaffected citizens in China and the K.S.A would probably tell you otherwise; i bet the families of the people killed in the Tiananmen Square Massacre would be surprised indeed. A very naive post to say the least !

Posted by: Ahmed

Freedom should come with responsibilities. If anyone is old enough to dare, so he/she old enough to face the consequences.

Posted by: Toby

Could the UAE Gov please send some advisers over to brief the UK Gov please, we need a good dose of common sense right now. Thanking you in advance!

Posted by: Evgeny

Of course there is an issue of the freedom of speech. But tell this to the families of dozens of innocent people that died because someone used this freedom to pursue their own agendas in the Arab world. I fully support the Government's move to monitor social networks and enforce the law because i live in this country happily and don't want things to change.

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