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
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
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.