UNCUT reported that while authorities claim the law describes clear definitions of “rumors,” “lies,” and “defamatory remarks,” there is still some confusion among users. As UNCUT noted:
“In the words of the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulation Authority (TRA) General Manager Mohammad Al Ganem, the announcement has left a number of users puzzled about the extent and limitations of this law …”
The law combats any spread of false, rumored, or information that could “harm UAE society” through Twitter, BlackBerry’s BBM messenger service, or Facebook.
Colonel Abbulrahim bin Shafi emphasized the consequences of using those mediums to spread rumors to Arabian Business, saying, “[We] impose severe penalties for those who spread rumours and dishonor our reputation.”
This is far from the first time the UAE government has censored text messages. Last year an Indian couple was sentenced to jail for exchanging texts with sexual content. The conviction read that the sexuality of the messages “suggested the unnamed pair planned to ‘commit sin,'” meaning an extramarital affair, which is illegal in the UAE.
The government has also threatened to ban BlackBerry e-mail, messaging, and Web services in general, but backed down days before implementing it.
UNCUT noted that the new law has sparked heated debate in nearby Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states.