Cybercrimes law and the spread of fake news on social media

July 22, 2018
Cybercrimes law and the spread of fake news on social media
Hani Aldahri

Okaz newspaper

UNDER the cybercrimes law in the Kingdom, those who produce and spread false news that negatively affect public order and exchange them through social networking websites will be sentenced up to five years in prison and a fine of up to SR3 million.

This law is good for the nation and its citizens but not good for anyone who forwards false news through social media without verifying its accuracy and posts tweets and Facebook comments unaware of the punishments.

This illiteracy cannot be tackled merely by circulating awareness messages by the public prosecutor through social media. The real solution and treatment of legal illiteracy lies in handing out deterrent punishments. However this will not be effective unless the authorities punish celebrities and well-known people who violate the law by posting such messages. And the punishment must quickly follow the violation.

In my opinion this is the best way to educate people and prevent them from violating regulations. This punitive system is significant at a time when the majority of people are unaware of the consequences of spreading lies and rumors through social media.

However, the responsibility of implementing this system falls on security and judicial authorities as well as the mass media. A few days ago a Twitter celebrity who introduced himself as an economist said he has good news to announce and that it is the most important news in the Kingdom’s history.

He made this announcement without being a government official or without holding any important official position in the government and you can imagine the impact of that statement. His comment was re-tweeted by other social media activists who want to give the impression that they follow every news item and get the latest news before others.

But the man withdrew the tweet immediately as if nothing had happened and as if he is not responsible for the consequences of his post. In my opinion and the opinion of all sane people this is a dangerous trend as it promotes hatred among citizens and creates depression in society.

This leads us to ask the legal experts, if the work of that Twitter activist does not constitute manufacturing and distributing fake news and if the law for combating information crimes does not apply to him, what actually is false news.

We should know that many provocative statements and incidents are often forgotten without the perpetrators facing any punitive action. Deterrent punitive measures are necessary to prevent recurrence of such incidents, especially from the part of social media activists who want to spread any news and information to achieve instant fame.

In the absence of deterrent punishment, evil-minded people will continue to spread false news to keep them in the limelight. Are we aware of the danger posed by these false information campaigns?

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