If you’re planning a holiday in Dubai – or any other part of the United Arab Emirates – you might want to keep yourself in check while using WhatsApp, because even a middle-finger emoji can cost you pretty penny, or worse, get you deported.
Under newly passed legislation in the UAE, natives could face fines up to Dh250,000 ($68,000) for swearing or insulting someone via WhatsApp while expatriates and holiday-makers might be deported. Disobeying the law could also land people in jail.
These strict new rules came to light when the Federal Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi ordered re-trial of a man convicted of swearing at a colleague over the messaging app after the $800 imposed fine was deemed too lenient. Prosecutors demanded the court increase the fine up to $68,000 or give him jail time.
The defendant was apparently prosecuted under the country’s Cyber Crimes Law. The terms used in his WhatsApp message were not revealed in the court documents but they were deemed "insulting.”
The new trial date has not been revealed.
Only last month, police and lawyers reportedly warned people against sending a middle finger emoji sign on the online messaging service, implying that it could land the user in court under the same laws.
“Sending a middle finger emoji on a smartphone or even sending a middle finger picture through email can put you in trouble,” said criminal defense lawyer Abdullah Yousef Al Nasir. “With the development of technology, people have started insulting others on social media using services like WhatsApp or BlackBerry messenger.”
“Some people insult or mock others thinking nobody can prosecute them. But the UAE has issued a cybercrimes law to punish anyone committing any crime like insulting someone using technology,” he added.