Image via WikipediaThe UAE government is to set up a new department to combat cyber crimes such as financial scams, hacking, fraud, fake companies , extortion and pornography, according to today's sizzling Gulf News.
This is a good thing. The new department will be recognised by the Federal Courts and likely will be set up in Sharjah and, says GN, will be charged with drafting laws and regulations for the online world, as well as with the job of co-ordinating with law enforcement bodies. This is also, potentially, a good thing. The UAE's judiciary does not the benefit of a legal framework that recognises the online world and currently could fairly be said to rely heavily on court appointed experts when it comes to cases that have online aspects to them.
Quoted in a call-out box in GN's story that discusses 'e-police patrols', however, a major in the Abu Dhabi police says, "When there is a malicious rumour doing its rounds, or when there is a major security issue, the police can perform undercover operations online, just as in reality."
Now, when there is a 'malicious rumour' in print, its a matter for the National Media Council to regulate and is governed by media law - as far as I know, the police aren't patrolling Gulf News.
Can we consider a 'malicious rumour' online to be a different kettle of fish , then? There's certainly a grey area here - is online commentary to be regulated as media or public order?