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To emoji or not to emoji?

by | EDITOR’S CHOICE, Feature, TOP STORIES

Did you know that woefully inappropriate emojis that you use in your messages or post online can get you in jail in the UAE? TFT reveals emojis with double meanings that you must refrain from sending online

The use of social media has been a part of the lives of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) across the world. After all, this is the cheapest and easiest way to check on their families back home.

However, the UAE is one of the countries that is keen on stamping out cybercrime and improper usage of social media. The fact that people still go in the wrong direction is evident from some recent high-profile cases of social media users being slapped with massive fines and even being deported.

In June 2018, the Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance sentenced a man for tweets that were considered insulting to an Arab woman and fined him Dh250,000 for defamation and misuse of the Internet. Days later, a man was arrested in Dubai for uploading a video of a man crying. The person filmed was a client who had discovered that his relative had accumulated Dh20,000 in traffic fines.

But perhaps one of the most overlooked online boo-boos of the modern age is the use of woefully inappropriate emojis to comment about someone or a thing online, because even those small icons or signs can be offending to the country or its residents, according to experts interviewed by The Filipino Times.

Barney Almazar, director at the corporate-commercial department of Gulf Law in the Middle East, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom, told TFT that: “You should always be on the conservative side when on the net. For instance, though a lot of websites offer an array of funny emojis, avoid those that may offend the UAE culture, such as the ‘middle finger’ or any other vulgar stickers even if it is intended only as a joke. Remember that the conversation has a record history and everything you send can be retrieved and used against you in the future.”

Yes, emoji, which was chosen as the 2015 “word” of the year by Oxford Dictionaries, is a convenient way to stress a point (thumbs up or thumbs down), or express an emotion (happiness, sadness, and anger). However, they can affect other people’s emotions as well, and can become offensive when it is used to disrespect or disdain the country, its leaders, and its residents even if they are your friends. Some emojis may also be contrary to public morals of the UAE, including the middle finger, as well as other emojis that might send ‘double’ meanings such as the eggplant or banana, and the peach emoji which resembles like buttocks.

Almazar told TFT that the cybercrime laws in the UAE are different from its Western counterparts. So, it is advisable to be rather more cautious than one would normally be in one’s own country.

Why lots of emojis are no good?

“Emojis are a form of communication, and just like any other form of communication, there are times we should use them and times we should not,” Dr. Monica Riordan, an experimental psychologist whose recent study analyzes the psychology and effects of emojis, explained in an article in Vogue Magazine. She added: “The inherent playfulness of emojis suggests we should not use them in serious messages. This is true even of ‘angry face’ emojis—the inclusion of them in an angry message actually makes a message seem less angry.”

Know the law before you click

Many must have wondered if the cybercrime law is too strict about social media usage. When a bad habit is not prevented from its roots, it can cause disastrous results.

In February, intelligence officials of a powerful Western country put cybercrime alongside terrorism as pushing the world to the brink. There’s a huge cost to the economy.

The UAE Cybercrime Law No. 5 of 2012 stipulates penalties like jail terms that could go up to a life sentence and/or a fine ranging between Dh50,000 and Dh2 million.

Attorney General of the UAE, Dr. Hamad Saif Al Shamsi, said that the country is establishing a public prosecution, called the Federal Public Prosecution for Information Technology Crimes to handle cybercrime. Its mandate covers crimes of using infotech to damage public morale; human trafficking; illegal arms activity; insulting religions; dealing in narcotics; and transacting in illegal funds, among others.

Other social media no-no’s in the UAE

1. Posting of private information

Sharing of private information about other people, even if it was just a little secret from high school days, is illegal in the UAE. Like fake news, sharing of personal information such as address, personal number, among others, could put other people in danger. Sharing of secrets, meanwhile, such as personal problems and private family life could destroy the reputation of another person. You could pay up to Dh500,000 and spend at least six months in jail if you are proven guilty.

TAKEAWAY: The law seeks to protect confidential information at work and prohibits the disclosure or use of other people’s personal or company information without their consent.

2. Sharing of photos of other people without permission

Taking a selfie, in itself, is not illegal in the UAE. However, it becomes punishable if you include other people in the frame without their permission, and then you posted it online.

The Federal Law No. 5 of 2012 specifically states that: “That who commits an act which breaches the privacy of other people’s lives by listening to a conversation, recording or sharing a clip, or taking a picture of a person without their consent, faces jail or a fine.”

Jailtime given to those proven guilty is at least six months while fine ranges from Dh150,000 and Dh500,000. In some cases, expatriates are also deported, depending on the degree of the offense.

TAKEAWAY: “The UAE Penal Code considers it an offense to transmit someone’s photograph without their consent. Moreover, pursuant to the intellectual property rights laws, a person who takes a picture of another cannot distribute or publish the same without the consent of the person appearing in such a picture,” says Almazar.

3. Typing in immoral and offensive comments

With the wide group of people living in the UAE, posting immoral and offensive comments that violate other people’s beliefs is illegal in the UAE. Some examples of these are anti-Muslim comments, blasphemous messages, lewd content and photographs, messages that encourage illegal activity, and so on.

UAE Cybercrime Law No. 5 of 2012, which was issued by the President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan lays out a more specific rule on the usage of the online platform, not only social media.

TAKEAWAY: “The Penal Code as well as the cybercrimes law prohibit insulting others, or attributing to them conduct that would make them the subject of contempt. As provided for in Article 21, it is not essential that the statement be false in order for it to be considered defamatory. Even if the author can prove the truthfulness of posts on social media, he may still face civil or criminal liability should the content include secret information or photographs without the consent of the subject,” says Almazar.

4. Rumor-mongering

In July, a message spread like wildfire on social media that smoking shisha in restaurants and coffee shops could give you the deadly space-occupying lesion (SOL) of the brain. SOL usually happens due to malignant tumors but, internet rumor-mongers insist that it can also result from drawing on the shisha.

Dubai Municipality called out this rumor for being all smoke and no fire. Of course, tobacco consumption is harmful to one’s health and has been linked to respiratory tract infections and cancer but, civic officials said, shisha sessions are usually of 20-80 minutes, during which a smoker may indulge in 50-20 puffs, while a cigarette smoker usually takes 8-12 puffs over five minutes, ingesting around 0.5 of a liter of smoke.

Dubai Municipality stressed that it had a number of measures in place to safeguard the health and safety of people.

TAKEAWAY: Such rumors that spread panic and fear and endanger businesses can land a person in jail with a hefty fine and punishment.

FINE AND PUNISHMENTS

Dh50,000-Dh2 million
Penalty for misusing the Internet, according to the UAE Cybercrime Law No. 5 of 2012, and/or jail term that could go up to a life sentence

Dh250,000
Penalty if found guilty of spreading rumors and/or jail term for up to three years

Dh150,000
Penalty for filming road accidents and uploading the images on social media, and/ or jail term

Dh500,000
Penalty for slander, use of abusive language or hurling of insults against another person or entity through a computer network, and/or imprisonment

SOCIAL MEDIA REMINDERS

Before you go on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, heed these words of caution from legal experts:

• Do not tag other users without their consent. The UAE law contains broad provisions relating to the protection of privacy and reputation.
• You should not share your password or otherwise do anything that might jeopardize the security of your account.
• Do not tweet anything that is contrary to public morals, the principles of Islam and the social and moral welfare of the UAE or any content that contains irreverence towards Islam or other religions. That includes hashtags.
• Respect the UAE government, its leadership, political institutions and ultimately the UAE’s cultural heritage and social norms and customs.
• You must not publish direct, specific threats of violence against others. This also includes hate speeches, and content that is threatening or contains graphic or gratuitous violence.
• You should think carefully about the content you are posting. You are responsible for the content you post. You should bear this in mind if you are posting content that you do not own or which contains material that is subject to someone else’s rights.
• You must not publish other people’s private information without their consent.

Did you know?

The first ever ‘emoji’ was created by a Japanese artist named Shigetaka Kurita in 1999. The word came from the Japanese word ‘moji’ which means letter or character.

What does your favorite emoji mean?

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THE FILIPINO TIMES is the biggest and most trusted Filipino newspaper in the UAE.

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With more than 2,500 strategic distribution spots, TFT is available where the Filipinos are - at Smart Bus Shelters, Metro Stations, restaurants, supermarkets, schools, airport lounges, Emirates and Etihad Philippine-bound flights, churches, Filipino community events and many more.

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THE FILIPINO TIMES is the biggest and most trusted Filipino newspaper in the UAE.

It has a print run of 60,000 copies and 250,000 readership per week; bolstered by 1 million visitors to its website every month. It also has an e-newsletter sent to its 250,000 subscribers every day.

The Filipino Times is FREE and has the widest targeted circulation across the 7 emirates of the UAE.

With more than 2,500 strategic distribution spots, TFT is available where the Filipinos are - at Smart Bus Shelters, Metro Stations, restaurants, supermarkets, schools, airport lounges, Emirates and Etihad Philippine-bound flights, churches, Filipino community events and many more.

THE FILIPINO TIMES. We are where the Filipinos are.

FOLLOW US

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