You’re focussed. You’re committed. You’ve developed a marketing communications plan and have created your social media accounts and are actively posting away on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn about your company and industry, not hurting a soul. Everything is organised, professional and legal. Or is it?
How well do you know the social media rules and regulations in the country in which you operate? For those in the UAE, some of these laws are very important and are strictly enforced, and if you are not aware of them, you could be opening yourself up to all kinds of financial and legal risks, that include your website being blocked, substantial fines, deportation and even a jail term.
Now, this week’s blog post is not meant to scare you off your laptop, but as I was working with a client to educate their employees about social media, I realised how little people actually know about the official line on social media activity, and how much more education needs to be carried our in order for people to familiarise themselves with this essential part of life in the UAE.
Did you know, for example, that any social media influencer you choose to work with (whether you are paying them in cash or products/services) should have a specific social media influencer license?
Did you also know that the below actions are considered a criminal offence?
- Tagging a person without his/her consent
- Posting other people’s pictures/videos without their consent
- Threatening people on social media
- Spreading information that is not verified by official sources
- Gossiping about people or maligning them
I’m sure most of us are well aware that any act/post that triggers religious hatred and/or insults religion is a serious criminal act, and this includes insulting God, his prophets/apostles, holy books, houses of worship or graveyards, but this is not the only prohibited content.
The standards set by the UAE’s National Media Council require all of us posting on social media to:
- Respect the regime of the UAE, it’s symbols and the political system
- Not offend Islamic beliefs, and show respect to other religions
- Respect the culture and heritage of the UAE
- Not offend national unity or social inclusion, and/or incite conflict
- Respect the policies and directions of the UAE at national and international level
- Not to harm the economic system of the country, or spread rumours, misleading and biased news
- To respect government policies to promote national identity and the integration of citizens
- To respect the principles and codes of ethics of media work
- Not to publish or broadcast information harmful to children, women and other social groups, or that would incite others toward hatred and violence
- To respect copyright rules and regulations
- Not to disclose official confidential contacts, military matters or conventions or treaties concluded by the government without proper authorisations
- Not to report distorted proceedings and deliberations of courts or other regulatory bodies
- Not to disclose information on a criminal investigation, which has not been concluded and/or ordered to be confidential
- Not to publish news, photographs, and/or comments which invade the privacy of individuals and families, or destroy reputation
- Not to forge or fabricate documents or present incorrect news with bad intent
- Not to share material which harms the national currency or causes confusion over the economic situation in a country
- Not to share expressions, photographs, or drawings that are in violation of public morals or may confuse the public (ie make sure your models/influencers/video actors are dressed and behaving appropriately – ie not drinking alcohol, gambling, smoking, etc)
- Not to defame public officials
- Not to share investigations which deal with more than one party, without giving an account of the views of all parties directly concerned.
If you are looking to develop adverts, whether online or offline, you should also be aware that there are more specific guidelines for this. All the content you create for advertising must:
- Not promote acts of black magic or astrological predictions
- Comply with the conditions and regulations related to the UAE flag, national emblem and anthem
- Respect the intellectual property (IP) rights of others
- Not advertise alcoholic beverages, narcotic substances, tobacco, smoking or any related goods and services
- Not be ambiguous, or include any false or misleading or fraudulent information
- Not include images that are falsified or imitated or that violate IP rights
- Not lead to confusion or ambiguity with other products or activities
- Include the spoken Emirati dialect or the classic Arabic language (if using Arabic language)
- Clearly identify the advertiser
In addition, depending on what your advertisement is about, you may need to seek additional prior approvals from the relevant authorities. These areas include medicine, drugs, food, promotional campaigns, special offers, real estate or universities and educational institutions.
This is just a snapshot of the information to highlight some of the areas we need to be aware of, and that we have a responsibility to familiarise our colleagues, suppliers, partners and clients with. For more information, and additional content around these regulations, as well as Government advice on guiding employees to use social media safely and responsibly, and carrying out marketing campaigns in the UAE, you can check out the official website here.