ALESSANDRA DALY JOHNSON WRITES- Be careful about what emojis you use in the United Arab Emirates. Earlier this May, a middle finger emoji was announced as part of a new Microsoft update, Windows 10, which will be released later this summer. While this offensive emoji could be mistaken for an upside-down popsicle, it is clearly a hand ‘flipping the bird.’
Following the revelation that Windows 10 would include this update, Emirati police and lawyers have issued a warning to their citizens: using this emoji could end up costing you 3 years in jail or a Dhs 500,000 (roughly $136,123) fine. An expatriate may even face deportation. However, Big Brother is not always watching, since prosecution will only occur if the recipient of this emoji files a complaint with the police.
In 2009, a British expatriate in the UAE was detained and had his passport confiscated for allegedly using the middle finger in an argument. Similarly, in 2014, an Egyptian man was fined about $1,400 and deported after allegedly using this gesture in a fit of road rage. Insulting gestures, such as the middle finger, break the UAE’s public decency laws.
This is not the first time that online activity has proven problematic for expatriates in the UAE. Earlier this year, an American man was detained, but eventually released, for allegedly slandering his employers on Facebook.
Criminal defense lawyer Abdullah Yousef al Nasir told 7DAYS newspaper: “With the development of technology, people have started insulting others on social media services like WhatsApp or BlackBerry messenger. Some people insult or mock others thinking that nobody can prosecute them. But the UAE has issued a cyber-crimes law to punish anyone committing any crime like insulting someone using technology.”
Expatriates should not be fooled by UAE’s ‘tolerance’ for more liberal activities. In order to stay out of legal trouble, expatriates must be educated about the laws and customs of the UAE. So, here’s a warning for anyone planning to visit the UAE anytime soon: don’t use Windows’s new emoji. Or, at least. if you absolutely must iclude it in a text, send it to someone with a sense of humor.