In UAE, swearing on WhatsApp could cost you $68,000

WhatsApp users beware, swearing at someone on the app in the United Arab Emirates could land you in jail

Asma Ajroudi

Published: Updated:

WhatsApp users beware, swearing at someone on the mobile messaging app in the United Arab Emirates could land you with a jail sentence and a $68,000 fine (Dhs 250,000), local media reported on Tuesday.

The Federal Supreme Court, based in the capital Abu Dhabi, recently overruled two lower court sentences fining a man convicted of swearing on Whatsapp at a colleague $800. The sentence was deemed “too lenient.”

The defendant was prosecuted under the Cyber Crimes Law after the claimant presented his cell phone to prove he received “insulting words” from the accused.

Expatriates could also face a potential deportation from the country under the new federal law, reported Emirates 24/7 News.

The fine will be paid to authorities, Hassan Elhais, a senior partner at Al Rowaad Advocates & Legal Consultants, explained to Al Arabiya News.

Elhais added that the hefty fine was “enough to deter people” from insulting others online.

“Some people can use the internet to destroy the reputation of others…so there must be some kind of control on the matter,” he said.

The fine would be paid to the authorities, but the victim can still request compensation for the damages, noted the legal consultant.

When asked whether such a law is considered an infringement on freedom of expression, Elhais said the UAE constitution protects freedom of expression in article No. 30.

“We cannot consider that it is an infringement on freedom of expression in the UAE. It is only a regulation of the matter. Any right shall be organized and controlled as per the law,” he said.

But “nobody has the right to misuse his freedom to harm others,” he added.

Last month, UAE lawyers and police issued a warning against the use of a middle finger emoji (graphic symbol) online.

“Sending a middle finger emoji on a smartphone or even sending a middle finger picture through email can put you in trouble. It’s an insult in the UAE and the law can punish you with either jail of up to three years or a fine of up to Dhs 500,000 ($137,000),” criminal defense lawyer Abdullah Yousef al Nasir told 7DAYS last month.

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