Spreading False Information on Social Media and its Penalties

The United Arab Emirates has enacted the federal degree law number 34 of 2021 concerning the fight against rumors and cybercrime. The said law was issued on 20 September 2021 and is in effect from 2 January 2022. It seeks to prohibit the use of the Internet to publish, circulate or spread false news, rumors or misleading information, which are contrary to the news published by official source.

The said law defines fake data as ‘False or misleading rumors and data, wholly or partially, whether per se or in the frame of the context in which they appeared’.

Article 52 of the said law, prohibits the circulation, divulgence or publishing of any new that is false, misleading, or contravening the officially announced news in the UAE. The said rule also takes in to account transmission of any data or incorrect report that seek to disturb public peace or cause harm to the public interest as well as the national economy. The punishments denoted for the said violations include imprisonment up to Dirhams one hundred thousand, with further escalation in the penalty up to imprisonment of two year’s and a fine up to Dirhams two hundred thousand.

Article 52 – Spreading Rumors and Fake News

  1. Everyone uses the information network or an information technology method to divulge, publish, re-publish, circulate or re- circulate fake news or data, or false, malicious, misleading or incorrect reports or rumors that contravene the officially announced news, or transmit any provocative promotions that arouse or provoke the public opinion, disturbs the public peace, intimidate the people or harm the public interest, the national economy, the public order or the public health shall be sentenced to detention for a period of not less than one year and to pay fine of not less than (100,000) one hundred thousand Dirhams.
  2. The penalty shall be detention for a period of not less than (2) two years and payment of fine of not less than (200,000) two hundred thousand Dirhams, if any of the actions set out in Clause (1) of this Article arouses or provokes the public opinion against an authority or institution of the state, or if committed at time of epidemics, crises, emergency or disasters.

There are additional penalties included in the law towards acts, such as manipulation of IP address with the intention of committing a crime.  Article 10, states that: Anyone who manipulates the IP address of information network by using an address of a third party or by any other mean, with the intention of commission of a crime or to prevent the discovery thereof shall be sentenced to provisional imprisonment and /or to pay fine of not less than (500,000) five hundred thousand Dirhams and not more than (2,000,000) two million Dirhams.’ Similar, fines are also imposed on anyone fabricating a website or electronic account or mail and falsely ascribing the same to a natural/ juristic person (article 11).

The UAE considers publishing of false data or information with the view to defame the government or cause public panic as a crime. In such instances, ignorance of the law cannot be provided as an excuse. People use information technology in various forms today, whether it be website or social media networks, and the information can be circulated at a very high speed. All these factors have lead to the issuance of the new law that seeks to prevent false news to be circulated and aims to protect the people from falling prey to such acts.

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