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WAM story part one, part two and part three.
The new decree includes amendments to Federal Legal Decree No. 2 for 2006 on cyber crimes and is, as far as I am aware, the most comprehensive such law in the Middle East. The National team hit the phones like a wild thing and filed the story with comment. GN ran with WAM.
It's a pretty wide-ranging piece of legislation and includes many specific categories of online criminality, including human trafficking, trading in antiques, defamation, blasphemy, extortion and pornography. It repeatedly uses the phrase "using electronic sites or any information technology means to..."
The law includes some important clauses for those in the habit of posting comment and opinion online. Quoting the WAM file (extracting paras from the whole), the decree:
It also criminalizes acts by any one to insult others or to accuse others of acts which would lead to punishment or contempt by a third party, online or through any other information technology means.
It also stipulates punishments for any person creating or running an electronic site to publish, online or through any information technology means, any programmes or ideas which would promote disorder, hate, racism or sectarianism and damage national unity or social peace or damage public order and pubic decency.
It also stipulates punishments for any person for creating or running an electronic site to raise, online or through any information technology means, that may call for the raising of donations without authorization from the competent authorities.
It also stipulates penalties of imprisonment on any person who may create or run an electronic site or any information technology means, to deride or to damage the reputation or the stature of the state or any of its institutions, its President, the Vice President, any of the Rulers of the emirates, their Crown Princes, the Deputy Rulers, the national flag, the national anthem, the emblem of the state or any of its symbols.
It also stipulates penalties of imprisonment on any person publishing any information, news, caricatures or any other kind of pictures that would pose threats to the security of the state and to its highest interests or violate its public order.
It also stipulates penalties of imprisonment on any person creating or running an electronic site or any information technology means to engage in, or to call for, the overthrow of the system of government of the state or to seize it, or to seek to disrupt or obstruct the Constitution or the effective laws of the state, or to oppose the basic principles which constitute the foundations of the system of government of the state. The same punishment is imposed by the decree on anyone who calls for, promotes or provokes the aforementioned acts or abets or helps others to engage in them.
It also stipulates penalties of imprisonment on any person using electronic sites or any information technology means to call for disobeying the laws and regulations of the state that may be in effect.
It also stipulates penalties of imprisonment on any person using electronic sites or any information technology means to call for demonstrations, marches and similar activities without a license being obtained in advance from the competent authorities.
The new decree also imposes penalties of imprisonment to any person providing any organisations, bodies, institutions or entities, online or through any information technology means with misleading, inaccurate or incorrect information which would damage the interests of the state or damage its reputation and stature.
The new decree also imposes penalties of imprisonment and fines, or either of these, on any owner or administrator of an electronic website or any information technology means or devices for storing or intentionally providing illegal content ,despite his or her knowledge of the illegal nature of the content, or for not removing, or failing to prevent access to this illegal content within the period stated in a written warning sent to him by the competent authorities declaring the illegal status of the content available online or the electronic site.
There are no surprises in there - although you may take some comfort from the last para's explicit inclusion of a takedown order, which at least would avoid automatic recourse to the full might of the law. In the main, the clauses above merely reinforce the 'online' aspect of actions that were previously considered an offence 'offline'.
That last para would, however, be something of a worry to Google, for instance, which would now presumably face a takedown order with the threat of imprisonment for its local representative or a fine for the corporation for hosting 'illegal content' in the definition of the law, which does include content which is found to "display contempt for any holy symbols, characters, figures and rituals of Islam including the Divinity (Allah, God) and the Prophets; for any other faiths or religions or any of their symbols, characters, figures and rituals; or to display contempt for or to insult any of the Divine Religions and to call for the engagement in or the promotion of sins."
What's interesting is how this law will be interpreted and enforced by the courts. UAE law doesn't work on precedent, so a great deal of the interpretation and application of the law in any given case depends on the judiciary. Here, as pretty most elsewhere in the world, that judiciary is going to require a great deal of specialised training and assistance if it is to grasp the ever-changing and fast moving online environment and the technologies it both depends on and spawns.