Saudis could face a five-year jail term and up to $800,000 fines for sending offensive tweets
Saudi based lawyer Humoud Al-Khaldi told Arab News that “penal action would be taken against offenders in compliance with Article 6 of the Anti-Cyber Crime Law, which stipulates that anyone involved in the production, transmission or storage of material infringing on public order, religious values or privacy would be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison or a maximum fine of SR3 million or face both forms of punishment.”
“Computer crime that takes place on Twitter, a leading social networking site that is used widely, poses a threat to the cohesion of the social fabric of society. Many have exploited Twitter to propagate false ideas and aberrant practices that many have fallen victim to, disregarding the moral and ethical values of our society, religion and traditions.”
“Hundreds of users posting anonymously or under fictitious names speak on issues which they are ignorant of, making judgmental remarks and instigating unrest.”
“This reinforces the importance of implementing strict laws to prevent such forms of cyber crime from taking place on Saudi and Gulf soil,” he was quoted as saying by Arab News.
Article 6 of the Saudi Anti-Cyber Crime Law states:
– Any person who commits one of the following cyber crimes shall be subject to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years and a fine not exceeding three million riyals or to either punishment:
-Production, preparation, transmission, or storage of material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy, through the information network or computers.
– The construction or publicizing of a website on the information network or computer to promote or facilitate human trafficking.
– The preparation, publication, and promotion of material for pornographic or gambling sites which violates public morals.
– The construction or publicizing of a web site on the information network or computer to trade in, distribute, demonstrate method of use or facilitate dealing in narcotic and psychotropic drugs.
Saudi Arabia has more than 3 million active twitter users and is ranked as the fastest growing Twitter nation in the world, with a growth rate of 3000%. The capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is ranked 10th globally among cities with most tweets. According to the experts, social media provides a space for interaction that is not permitted in public – one reason why people turn to social media to express their opinion.
Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz al-Sheikh had few months ago criticized the social media website Twitter as a “council of clowns” and a place for those who “unleash unjust, incorrect and wrong tweets.” However, Lori Plotkin Boghardt, a fellow in Gulf politics at The Washington Institute opines that the reason for Saudi Arabia’s war on Twitter is because the Saudi government views Twitter as a national security threat.