Thinking of drinking and driving? @TimHortonsGCC criticized by Dubai Police for social media blunder

There’s a fine line between engaging and offending online. The popular Canadian coffee shop chain Tim Hortons got into trouble this week with a post which went on on its @TimHortonsGCC Twitter account and its Facebook page.

The post below went online on the 14th of this month. Almost immediately after posting, the picture was attacked by the brand’s followers as being inappropriate and encouraging dangerous driving.

Do you drink and drive? The image from Tim Hortons GCC was criticized both by fans and by the Dubai Police (image source: http://www.7daysindubai.com_

Even worse for the brand, drinking and eating whilst driving is deemed as an offense by Dubai Police. The social media team’s image was in contravention of the Emirate’s laws. You pretty much know you’ve boo-booed when the police tell you off.

Speaking to local English-language newspaper 7Days, Dubai Police’s Colonel Saif Muhair Al Mazroui explained following such advice could risk lives on the roads.

He said: “Any motorist who doesn’t pay attention to the road is endangering the lives of others. Eating or drinking inside the car while driving is prohibited as it might cause accidents when the motorist gets busy and doesn’t focus on the road.”

Tim Hortons GCC did pull down the advert after it was posted and the CEO issued an apology shortly afterwards. Santhosh Unni explained that the image “was meant to reflect a common consumer behaviour pattern. We do not promote reckless driving and request our customers to always be careful on the road.”

However, brands need to think twice particularly when the issue of safety is involved. The Tim Hortons GCC Twitter feed and Facebook pages haven’t been active since the posting, which may suggest the brand is having a second look at how it manages its social media. The next time you think of drinking and driving, remember Tim Hortons GCC.

Dubai Police and the ignominy of being hacked on social media

When your day job is to ensure the safety and security of those around you, it doesn’t get worse than this for Dubai Police. The police force best known for solving crimes in a matter of moments and driving around in swanky super cars (the latest is a three million dollar Bugatti Veyron) has just been hacked by a group with the Twitter handle @TheHorsemenLulz – presumably named after the infamous hacker collective LulzSec.

All but one of Dubai Police’s social media sites have been hacked, including Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Pinterest (Facebook was the only social media channel that wasn’t hacked). While the images have now been removed, a couple of hours after the sites were compromised, here’s a screenshot of the offending image on the Dubai Police Twitter feed @DubaiPoliceHQ.

A screen shot of the image sent out by the hackers via the @DubaiPoliceHQ Twitter account

A screen shot of the image sent out by the hackers via the @DubaiPoliceHQ Twitter account

While the most obvious questions are how were these accounts hacked and how easy was it to hack the accounts, my issue is more about the group behind the hacks who have claimed several other cyber attacks in the UAE, including crashing the websites of Noor Islamic Bank, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and the UAE Central Bank. Do we have a locally-based hacker group in the UAE?

In a Tweet that included the @DubaiPoliceHQ Twitter account the group put out a video in November saying they’d be targeting the UAE Government. While the tweet and the video didn’t make too much sense, why wasn’t the issue taken seriously by those handling the @DubaiPoliceHQ Twitter account? With the UAE’s Government Summit taking place in Dubai tomorrow shouldn’t cyber security be top of the agenda for the public sector, and in particular the Dubai Police?

Citizen journalist beware – the perils of shooting video in Dubai

Dubai’s social media was buzzing yesterday with chatter about a video uploaded to Youtube of a local apparently beating a van driver. The video, which was initially taken off Youtube and which can be viewed above, shows the national using his agal to hit the Indian driver who’d apparently clipped his four-wheel drive and who hadn’t stopped during the initial collision. Part of the incident, including the national’s car license plate were captured in the video, which was reposted several times on Youtube. According to media reports including one piece from the daily Gulf News, the issue became a police matter not due to the alleged assault itself but rather due to the video going viral and the attention that it attracted.

A video of a government official beating a van driver was posted on YouTube has generated a public outcry and urged police to take legal action, said a legal expert.
“Initially it was an ordinary assault case, yet as soon as it was posted on YouTube, it went viral on social media channels. Since then, the case became of public concern and incited public opinion — that was when Dubai Police intervened. They took the required legal action against the involved persons,” advocate Mohammad Abdullah Al Redha told Gulf News.

Sources from Dubai Public Prosecution confirmed to Gulf News that investigations started in the afternoon as soon as they received the case.

Al Redha said: “It became a case of disdain and disparagement and particularly that it’s Ramadan, the month of mercy and forgiveness. When such incidents develop into a matter of public opinion and concern, police have the right to refer the case to prosecutors. According to the Criminal Procedures Law’s article 10, the Public Prosecution [in its capacity as the legal representative of the public right] can order the police to open an official complaint against the government official even if the van driver doesn’t do so.”

The case took an interesting turn today with the news that the person who took the video, a fellow driver, was arrested. According to Gulf News, the alleged defendant’s son lodged the case citing defamation of his father and family.

Major General Al Mazeina, acting chief of Dubai Police, said the Asian man who posted the clip was arrested after the Emirati official’s son lodged a defamation complaint at Al Ghusais Police Station.

“We only arrested the man who took the video because of a complaint lodged by the family of the Emirati official,” said Major General Al Mazeina.

He said that no one had the right to take pictures or film anyone without permission and acknowledgment from the person who is pictured.

“The man who took the video was supposed to take the video to the police or to the concerned authority to report the incident and then the police for sure would take action but instead of that the man posted the video on YouTube,” said Major General Al Mazeina.

The son told police that the video had been seen by hundred of thousands of people worldwide, which had damaged the reputation of his father and the whole family.

Major General Al Mazeina said the Asian man admitted to police that he took the video and posted it on YouTube and that he also sent it to some of his friends. He said the Asian man happened to be passing by at the time the incident took place.

Under the UAE’s cybercrime laws, recording videos in public without the permission of those being filmed is illegal and constitutes defamation. Despite the uproar over the issue, it seems that the authorities may not be willing to drop the case against the person who took the video despite calls on social media to reward his decision to film and post the event online. The message is simple – don’t film anything that could be construed as negative and share it online. Or else you could be facing public charges.

Forget the debt – Dubai cops now have a Lamborghini and Ferrari (and more Salik toll gates)

Who needs to think about debt when you’re out and about driving a supercar. In their wisdom and in a public relations exercise that is reminiscent of the city pre-2008, Dubai police unveiled the latest addition to their motor pool last week. The US$400,000 Lamborghini Aventador can do speeds of up to 349km/h and will be used to chase down whoever has the balls to think they can speed in Dubai and not get caught. I’m still trying to work out how they’d stop criminals, but I’d assume the very fact that a cop is driving one of these cars would be enough to startle transgressors into taking their foot off the accelerator.

In preparation for the hard work of bringing law-breakers to justice, the Lamborghini and its driving team were dispatched to Dubai Mall to drive around the world’s largest shopping center and pose for pictures. The aim? To show tourists “how classy Dubai is”.

But Dubai Police didn’t just stop there. The news was followed a couple of days later by the announcement that they’d be adding a Ferrari as well. After all, just having a Lamborghini alone is so passe, especially since the UK, Qatar and Italy also did the same several years back. The Ferrari FF is cheaper than the Lamborghini and sells for 900,000 Dirhams or just over US$250,000 dollars. The supercar is slightly zippier than the Lamborghini (I’ve been told) and does 0-100km in a 3.7 seconds. And it has more storage space, including room for two Krispy Kreme dozen donut boxes and paper coffee cups.

To your left, the Ferrari FF. And to your right, the Lamborghini Aventador. It’s Dubai’s version of toys for the cops (credit: Emirates 24/7)

With impeccable timing, Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority also announced that two new Salik toll gates would be going live on the Dubai-Sharjah border. The gates will collect a toll of 4 Dirhams from each car that passes through them, and the full story plus lots of interesting comments can be read here on One adventurous resident posted his take on both stories. I like the idea.

Dubai’s new Ferrari fund, brought to you by the RTA (credit: @danielmarcevans)

On a serious note, most of us could agree that we’re living in an age of austerity. Dubai itself hasn’t been immune from the global economic drop, and the city-state will have to pay US$22 billion of debt next year according to rating agency Moody’s. Most countries worldwide have had to cut back on spending, and if this idea had been ventured in Europe you’d probably find someone losing their job. With so much money to pay off does this send out the right message about debt and responsibility, both on a local and a global level.

While both supercar stories make for great PR, I wonder what thought went into the decision especially with the timing of the two new toll gates. Have the silly days returned to Dubai? For a city that has done so much good and yet still has many challenges to face, I do hope not.

No mention has been made if Dubai Police have insurance for the Lamborghini or the Ferrari.