The changes come into effect on January 2, 2022
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Under the UAE’s new Cybercrime Law, posting and sharing false information online, posting deceptive ads and creating fake accounts are all criminal offenses.
Federal Law No. 34 of 2021, which entered into force on January 2, 2022, covers new areas of the Internet, making major changes to Federal Law 5 of 2012 on the fight against cybercrime.
The new law is part of the larger package of legislative reforms announced on Saturday for the next 50 years.
Ghassan El Daye, Partner and Middle East Litigation Manager at Charles Russell Speechlys, said the new cybercrime law reserves the rights of citizens and residents in the ever-changing digital arena.
“This is a very advanced law that studies all aspects of the internet and social media, presenting a high level view of where the UAE is heading.”
He added: “The law captures the spirit of the UAE as a country that provides all possible advanced tools to government entities, the private sector, entrepreneurs and start-ups, while defining the correct use of ‘Internet with firm rules. “
One of the main amendments gives the convicted person the right to lodge a complaint against the court decision.
“The law presents strong rules but also gives convicts the right to formally file a complaint, under an accelerated procedure, if they believe the verdict is unfair,” El Daye said.
Publishing and sharing fake news is a crime
The new law criminalizes the publication and sharing of false news, rumors and misleading or inaccurate information that causes panic on online platforms. Offenders incur at least one year in prison and a minimum fine of 100,000 Dh. The penalty increases to two years in prison and a minimum fine of 200,000 Dh if the crime was committed during pandemics, emergencies and crises.
“Under the new provision, online users who share inaccurate information or rumors are also part of the crime, not just publishers. Now everyone has a responsibility to confirm the information they receive before sharing it or risking imprisonment, ”El Daye said.
He added: “This is important because we know how attractive fake news tends to be for readers to share without confirming its authenticity, which can unintentionally cause panic and confusion.”
For the first time, the law also defines the term “electronic robot”, with article 54 stipulating that the use or modification of electronic robots to share, re-share or disseminate false information in the country can impose on the offender a penalty of two years in prison or a fine. not less than 100,000 Dh up to 1 million Dh, or both.
Publishing information that does not meet media content criteria may result in offenders one year in prison or a fine ranging from 30,000 to 300,000 Dh or both.
Fake ads and fake accounts
Under Article 48, the publication of misleading advertisements or unlicensed trading of cryptocurrencies may result in the offender being imprisoned or fined at least 20,000 Dh and not exceeding 500,000 Dh or the two penalties.
Selling medical products without a license may result in the offender being fined or imprisoned, or both.
For the first time in law, those who create a fake email, account or website by impersonating another person are liable to a fine ranging from 50,000 to 200,000 Dh or a prison sentence or both. The penalty rises to two years in prison if the offender used the fake account to defame the spoofed person.
The law also criminalizes the conduct of online surveys and polls without a license with a prison sentence or a fine ranging from 100,000 to 500,000 Dh or both sentences.
Begging and defamation online
The new law states that using online platforms to beg for money or solicit illegitimate help from federal and local authorities can result in the offender in jail for three months or a minimum fine of 10,000 Dh or both.
Users who promote e-money or set up a bogus business online to collect unlicensed money from the public for investment purposes face up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 250,000. Dh to 1 million Dh or both.
Defaming a foreign country can result in a prison sentence of six months or a fine ranging from 100,000 Dh to 500,000 Dh or both.
The law allows violators to file a complaint with the competent authority within three days of learning of the verdict.
The competent authority must deal with the case within one week. If the grievance request is denied, the offender has the right to appeal to the Abu Dhabi Federal Court within one week of receiving the denial, and the court has one week to rule and issue an order regarding the call.
Electronic surveillance and rehabilitation
The law confers on the court the competence to place the offender, after penal reconciliation, under surveillance, to prohibit him from using social networks or any type of online platform, to permanently or partially close their online platforms, or to place him in rehabilitation.
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The court also has the power to confiscate any device, software, content or other means used in the prosecution of a crime, in addition to removing offending material.
“Placing an offender under surveillance allows authorities to ensure that cybercrimes that pose a threat to society are not repeated and that online technologies are not misused. It aims to make the Internet a safe space for citizens and residents, ”El Daye said.
The law also extends the power of the Attorney General to take action to block a website or platform that breaks the law or commits any of the cybercrimes directed against the UAE, even if the platforms are based outside of the UAE.