What should you know about the new cybercrimes law in the UAE?

Up to AED 10,000,000 (10 million dirhams) fine for posting illegal content, according to UAE’s new Cybercrimes Law – Federal Decree – Law No. 34 of 2021 – which came into took effect on January 2, 2022, replacing the previous law – Federal Law No. 5 of 2012 on Combatting Cybercrimes.
In recent times, UAE Public Prosecution posted an informational video about Article 53 of the Federal Decree Law No. 34 of 2021. (Find the video link below for reference) According to the article, whoever uses a website or an electronic account to commission any of the following acts shall be sentenced to pay a fine of not less than AED 300,000 and not more than AED 10,000,000:

  • 1. Stores, makes available or publishes illegal content and fails to remove or block access to such content during the period specified in the issued orders set out in this Decree Law.
  • 2. Abstains from compliance with one of the issued orders described in this Decree Law, in whole or in part, without accepted excuse.

Click link to view

What is considered as illegal content in the UAE?

According to the provisions of the Cybercrimes Law, illegal content is described as, “content whose subject matter is one of the legally punishable crimes or whose publication, circulation or re-circulation in the state may undermine security, sovereignty or any interests of the State or public health, public peace, cordial relations between the State and other States; may affect results of elections of members of the Federal National Council or advisory councils in the Emirates of the State; incite feud or hatred feelings among a group of different persons; or diminish the public’s trust in the performance of any duty or task or the exercise of any power by any State authority or institution.”

According to the definition specified in the Cybercrimes Law, the following cases would be considered as illegal content in the UAE:

  • If the subject matter is a legally punishable crime in the UAE;
  • If the publication or its circulation undermines national security, sovereignty, or public interest;
  • If the publication or its circulation undermines the UAE’s relationship with other states;
  • If the publication can affect official election results, such as Federal National Council (FNC) elections or advisory council elections;
  • If the publication can incite hatred amongst different groups of persons;
  • If the publication diminishes public trust in a State authority or institution.

How is a ban placed on illegal content and who imposes it?

Clause 2 of Article 53 stipulates that if an individual does not comply with an order to remove illegal content, he or she may face a fine ranging from AED 300,000 to AED 10,000,000.
Such an order can be issued by any Federal or Emirate-level entity authorized to deal with cybersecurity.
“Article 62 read with Article 71 of the Law authorizes the competent bodies – that is Federal or Emirate-level entities concerned with electronic and cybersecurity affairs, such as Dubai Police or the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority – to issue orders to the concerned person, or online platform, as the case may be, to remove or restrict access to the illegal content. The competent bodies may issue such orders on their own, or at the request of UAE’s Attorney General. If such orders are not complied with, the concerned person will attract the penalties mentioned in Article 53 of the Law. Article 59 of the Law authorizes the court – after judging the conviction in any crimes mentioned under the Law – to order the shutdown or blocking of the offending website in whole or in part.”

What should residents of the UAE avoid publishing or sharing on social media?

The new cybercrime law's definition of illegal content implies that online users should think carefully before publishing content online.
Given how broadly the Law defines ‘illegal content’, residents of the UAE should exercise caution in what they publish, disseminate, or recirculate on social media.

  • Misleading or inaccurate information or ‘fake news’ / Hearsay.
  • Misleading advertisements.
  • Insults and slander.
  • Content favoring or propagating terrorism or terrorist activities.
  • Content for the purpose of satire or harming the reputation of UAE or one of the state authorities, institutions or current or past leaders.
  • Pornographic content.
  • Child pornographic content.
  • Content propagating gambling activities.
  • Content that may incite hatred or cause violence.
  • Content to undermine the security, sovereignty or any interests of the state or public health, or diminish public’s trust in the government institutions.

Residents of the UAE should also avoid creating bogus social media accounts.
However, if a UAE citizen unintentionally published or shared illegal content and is unaware of the UAE's rules and regulations concerning illegal content, they should remove it immediately and proactively.

Is the UAE Cybercrime Law applicable to criminal activity that occurs outside of the UAE?

“Article 69 makes the Law applicable to everyone who commits the crimes mentioned in the Law, regardless of where the person is physically located. This means that a person who commits a crime under the Law, including the violation of Article 53, either from within or outside the UAE, can be prosecuted in the UAE.”

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