Snapchat, Messi, and jail – the story of how a Dubai cop breached the cybercrime law

Will this official be behind bars for a video he took of Messi's passport? (picture courtesy of Hilary Clinton's  Twitter feed)

Will this official be behind bars for a video he took of Messi’s passport? (picture courtesy of Hilary Clinton’s Twitter feed)

It’s happened. That social media channel which everyone under the age of 30 is using (that’s why I’m not on it), has got someone into trouble. The ephemeral network Snapchat has gotten one Dubai police officer into trouble, for taking a picture of the passport of Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi when the footballing superstar came to Dubai. The picture, which I am assuming disappeared after being viewed, found its way to the authorities, and the gentleman in question has been charged with falling foul of the country’s 2012 Cybercrime law. The full story, courtesy of the Washington Post, is below:

A police officer in Dubai is facing a six-month prison sentence and a $130,000 fine for posting a video of Lionel Messi’s passport to Snapchat last month. Prosecutors say the act violated the United Arab Emirates’ Cybercrime Law of 2012.

The officer, identified only as a 26-year-old named J.J., appeared in court this week to plead guilty to the accusations, but maintained his intentions weren’t nefarious. Instead, he said he posted the Messi’s passport to Snapchat out of frustration from being denied the chance to meet the star who had traveled to the country on Dec. 27 to attend the Dubai International Sports Conference.

“I waited for Messi’s arrival [at Dubai International Airport] to take a photo with him … but his private escorts informed me that the player was tired and would not be able to take a photo,” J.J. explained in the Dubai Misdemeanors Court (via Gulf News). “Thereafter I walked to the passport control’s office where I saw Messi’s passport on a desk. I grabbed the passport and opened it to the page that contained Messi’s personal details and took video images with my iPhone via Snapchat.”

The video, which can still be found on YouTube, shows Messi’s photograph and data, and a man (presumably J.J.) can be heard narrating over the image.

“This is Messi here in Dubai… what shall I do now? Burn his passport or let it go?” the man says in Arabic in the Snapchat (via the Independent). “Alas… I will let it go.”

Prosecutors seem less alarmed about the man’s narration than the video itself, however.

“What the suspect did is an act punishable by the Cybercrime Law,” prosecutor Al Shamsi told Gulf News. “His behavior is deemed a breach of Messi’s privacy because the passport is considered a private possession just like the details mentioned on it.”

A verdict is expected this week. But, for those on Snapchat, beware! You may think your images disappear, but remember, nothing ever truly disappears once it goes digital.

The Fire, the Selfie and Prison – why you should care about what your friends say online

Was this inappropriate? Most certainly. But what could get you jailed is not just a picture that is in poor taste, but rather the comments your friends make on that post.

Was this inappropriate? Most certainly. But what could get you jailed is not just a picture that is in poor taste, but rather the comments your friends make on that post.

We all do stupid things, and we unfortunately then post these acts of idiocy online. Combine that with a situation like we had during New Year’s Eve, and you’ve got a situation that could at best be described as combustible.

As the flames ravaged Dubai’s The Address Hotel on New Year’s Eve, some people decided to take selfies. A few posted these selfies online, to Instagram and Facebook. At least two people, two young men, were arrested for their selfie (pictured above) while the Emirate’s Public Prosecution investigated their case.

There’s been much speculation online as to why the men were arrested, with many commentators arguing that the action defamed the country and its image – let’s remember that defamation is a criminal offense in the Gulf, with a minimum fine of 500,000 Dirhams and jail time in the UAE (as well as deportation for expatriates). Many have posted selfies at the same location, with smiles, grins and laughs, and such expressions of emotion may have been considered a case of schadenfreude by the authorities.

However, according to the English-language newspaper 7Days which spoke to the lawyer of the two accused, they were investigated not for the image per se, but rather for the comments made about the image. The argument goes that the person who posts content is also responsible for the comments on that post, even if those comments are not written by the same person but his or her friends, family (or anyone who wants to get you jailed).

Luckily for them, the two were released from prison after a couple of days with no charge after investigators found that there was “no evidence of criminal intent”. However, remember that in future it’s not just your stupidity that could land you in jail, but that of your online contacts as well. Their comments could cross the legal line of what is defined as defamation, so don’t post images or any other type of post that could get you into trouble. Just don’t…