All things considered I’m a fan of the UAE, and in particular Dubai. Would I want to permanently live in Dubai? No way. But to me there’s something indescribably electric about the city, something which always makes me enjoy going back, and which keeps me intrigued.
I communicate with my friends in the UAE primarily using WhatsApp, and do occasionally have an ever-so-slightly foul mouth, so I did a bit of a double take when I saw the below story, entitled “UAE pushes for $68,000 fine for swearing in WhatsApp message.” Via arabianbusiness.com:
A recently introduced law in the UAE makes it a criminal offence to swear or use abusive language a text messages.
Anyone convicted of the offence could face a fine of up to $68,000 (AED250,000) and a prison sentence. Expats will also be deported from the UAE under the cybercrime law.
The new law came to light during a Federal Supreme Court hearing after prosecutors successfully secured the retrial of an Arab man who was fined $816 (AED3,000) after he was convicted of swearing at a colleague in a WhatsApp message.
And you better be careful with your emoji use as well:
The same laws apply if a resident sends an ‘emoji’ of the middle finger on a text message in the UAE, it was reported recently.
Although not available just yet, Microsoft has announced plans to include the middle finger gesture icon on its new Windows 10 operating system when it’s launched in late July/August. Experts in the UAE warned that using the offensive ‘emoji’ could lead to a criminal prosecution.
I do think it’s important to look at the context from which this arose. A court heard the case of a man who not only swore at his colleague, but also “threatened to harm him.” You would think the latter part would be the bigger deal here, and that’s what he’d be on trial for. But somehow it seems the court is also concerned with the swearing as such.
While I won’t be pushing my luck, something tells me the UAE won’t be filling their courts with people simply using common four letter words in texts/WhatsApp. Though as a traveler it’s something to be aware of, if nothing else.
What’s your read on this story?