x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

UAE’s Ministry of Interior warns surge in gossip-mongers on social media

The official publication of the Ministry of Interior claims that with more and more people being connected on social networks, the potential for individuals to cause public panic is becoming increasingly worrying.

ABU DHABI // There has been a surge in the amount of false information being spread on social media, 999 magazine reports.

The official publication of the Ministry of Interior says that with more and more people connected to social networks, there is greater potential for individuals to cause public panic.

The article says that authorities strongly discourage the practice of spreading rumours about individuals or entities, and that it can lead to real safety threats.

People spreading rumours that are “damaging social peace and public order” and cause damage to “national peace” can be prosecuted under a federal law from 2012.

Those found guilty face prison and a fine of up to Dh1 million.

“There have been cases in the past where residents caught using social media to spread malicious rumours faced a jail term or fine, or both,” said Lt Col Awadh Al Kindi, editor-in-chief of 999 magazine.

“The UAE authorities will seriously deal with false news spread via social media harming UAE society.

“While in the past spreading information happened through word of mouth, the massive power and influence of social media has changed the communication landscape and a misuse of social media can virtually spread mass fear at the click of a button.

“We encourage UAE residents to educate themselves first and verify any information that they receive.

“To safeguard the country’s safety and security, the UAE has put in place strict laws, which include criminal charges and/or fines for damaging social peace and public order.

“These laws are deterrent to spreading rumours or false information on social media and the internet.”

The magazine reported there had been rumours spreading false information about the dangers posed by Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, or Mers, in recent weeks, which have led to unnecessary panic.

ksinclair@thenational.ae