Swearing on Texts Can Cost $68,000 in Fines

What used to merit a mouth full of soap can now inspire a hefty fine.

(Photo: Xavier Arnau/Getty Images)

Jun 17, 2015· 0 MIN READ
Shaya Tayefe Mohajer is TakePart's News Editor.

Sending a rude emoticon or swearing can result in a $68,000 fine under a new court ruling and law in the United Arab Emirates, where authorities have warned people to watch their fingertips.

The Gulf nation's federal supreme court announced the ruling in a retrial that came after prosecutors objected to an $800 fine as being too lenient, BBC News reports.

The nature of the naughty texts in that case weren't revealed in court, but the message landed the man in court after a coworker complained to police about insulting words being used.

The ruling raises privacy concerns and is ripe for abuse as a form of state-imposed retaliation, because it relies on UAE citizens to report on the contents of private messages and tattle on foulmouthed enemies. These texts can also lead to deportation for non-UAE citizens.

So, Why Should You Care? This headline is the latest in a series of stories about repression in a country that works to portray itself as a regional leader, often through giant displays of wealth and development in the key cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

In a report earlier this year, Human Rights Watch criticized authorities in the UAE for aggressively restricting rights to free expression and a crackdown on dissidents. "The UAE proclaims itself a beacon of tolerance in the region but the facts reveal a much uglier truth that betrays a disdain for human rights principles and those who support them," the advocacy group's Middle East and North Africa director, Sara Leah Whitson, wrote in January.