A law on the prevention of cybercrime was approved by the Emir of the State of Qatar on September 15 (Act N.14).
As the law was published in the Official Gazette dated 2nd of October 2014, it came into effect on 2nd of November 2014.
The main goal of this reform is to implement in the digital world behavior that is often already prohibited by various criminal laws in Qatar.
Herebelow is a brief overview of some of the significant reforms introduced by this new law; indeed , it has amended the Criminal Code, the Law on Telecommunications , the Law on Electronic Commerce and regulations relating to the fight against terrorism and money laundering.
This new law has such a broad scope that it is relevant not only for individuals living in Qatar but also for companies and services providers.
What are your rights and duties on social media ?
The scope of the new law targets cybercrime, that is the “unlawful use of an information technology technique, an information system or the Internet” in breach of this law.
The definition of information networks is very broad as it applies to « public and private networks and the Internet « , thus to websites and social networking platforms ( Section 1 , Article 1).
Whether you are living in Qatar or you are visiting the country, it is strongly advised, given the values of the country, to think twice and apply common sense prior to posting information, or sharing by a simple click, information on social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp , Viber , etc .).
The posting, through an information network or information technology technique , of news, photos or video or audio recordings violating the privacy rights (« the sanctity of people’s private or family life, even if the same is true « ) or » social values or principles » in Qatar is subject to criminal sanctions (Section 2, Chapter 2 , Article 8) .
Online insults, slanders, threats and blackmails of others are also subject to similar criminal sanctions.
Promotion, dissemination or publishing of « false news to threaten the safety and security of the State or its public order or domestic and foreign security » by any person who set up or runs a website is now illegal (Section 2, Chapter 2, Article 6).
Practically speaking, the risk of being sued will be increased for all information (text, photos or videos) available to the public on a website or social media. A blogger or a journalist based in Qatar is strongly advised to refrain from distributing or sharing a foreign newspaper article that is deemed detrimental to the image of Qatar, on Twitter, for example.
Similarly, the leader of a group on Facebook should moderate the discussions of the community if they question the country’s values (religious matters, for example).
Finally, make sure to block or delete the dissemination of information by others on your Facebook wall. In fact, you might be held liable for the publishing of text or images deemed to violate social values or public order in Qatar.
These criminal acts give rise to criminal sanctions (imprisonment or fine). In addition, the foreign national may be subject to deportation as a result of a court order.
A new panoply of criminal sanctions to protect businesses
In a global context of growing risks to the security of corporate information systems, recognized now as one of the major risks by boards of large enterprises, the new legal framework will strengthen access in Qatar to legal remedies against cyber hackers on the ground of multiple criminal offenses.
Now hackers of information systems or websites at the expense of state organizations or private sector can be subject to severe criminal penalties (Section 2, Chapter 2, Articles 2 and 3).
This is also true for people who would engage in unlawful intercept of data or online spying (Section 2, Chapter 2, Article 4). These practices are often carried out by people spying on behalf of foreign state agencies or companies. In the latter case, the spying is driven by the motive to collect competitive intelligence about an enterprise’s competitor.
The forgery of electronic documents, the illegal use or creation of electronic transactions cards, (e.g. credit cards) and digital identity theft are also subject to criminal sanctions (Section 2 , Chapter 3, Articles 10, 11 and 12).
Finally, the Qatari authorities may prosecute anyone in Qatar who, through an information network or information technology technique, has violated any intellectual or industrial property that is protected by law (Section 2, Chapter 5, Article 13).
We will only mention here a very important chapter of the law about the new system of international cooperation between the authorities of Qatar and foreign states (please refer to Section 4 on the detailed provisions on bilateral agreements regarding request for mutual assistance and extradition in criminal matters).
Stronger requirements for services providers
In line with a pattern reflected by similar foreign regulations, providers of telecommunications services ( Ooredoo ; Vodafone Qatar ) or of data hosting services ( Meeza , for example, as a manager of « data centers « ) are subject to new or enhanced requirements (Section 3 , Chapter 2, Articles 21 and 22 ) with respect to cooperation required by the authorities to :
– the provision of all data (identity, location , etc.) about their subscribers,
– the blocking of Internet links,
– the collection and recording of electronic data or information and traffic data for at least 90 days, and
– the automatic retention of subscriber data for a year.
These service providers enjoy a grace period of six months to comply with the new law.