A Dubai public prosecution body has warned that people who engage in sharing false information and rumours on WhatsApp and other social media platforms can face imprisonment for at least a year.
This decision came in being when after Senior Prosecutor Dr Khalid Al Junaibi said many messages circulated among the public on social media platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic have comprised false information that could undermine the stability of the community and create a negative sentiment.
“Many people forward the messages they receive without verifying them through official channels. Beware of this act as the message might be false information and you become a tool to spread it even if you have good intention,” Prosecutor Al Junaibi said during a virtual session on the dangers of spreading rumours.
“People are responsible for the messages they forward to others. They cannot take cover saying they didn’t intend to circulate false information. They are responsible to themselves and to society.”
According to Dubai Public Prosecution, rumourmongers can be jailed for a minimum of one year if they spread rumours as it a crime as per Article 198 of UAE Federal law.
Prosecutor Al Junaibi said that some people don’t even read the full message received on their WhatsApp, but are quick to forward it to others without realising it is only a rumour.
“People should check the message they receive carefully before forwarding it,” Al Junaibi added.
For instance, he said a recent rumour on the United Arab Emirates, UAE closing shopping malls after reopening them created a lot of confusion until the concerned authority issued a denial.
“People kept circulating the message and it went viral. Forwarding the message caused confusion among the public. If only people could verify the messages before forwarding them, this can be avoided. Society has the responsibility of fighting rumours by blocking such messages,” said Al Junaibi.
Prosecutor Al Junaibi also called upon people to follow news about the coronavirus combat and keep pace with official announcements.