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An antiterrorism law passed in 2014 provides harsh penalties for, among other things, undermining national unity or “publicly declaring one’s animosity…to the regime.” Together with a judiciary that lacks respect for international norms of free speech, these laws lead to nonviolent opposition activists being targeted under laws designed for terrorists and cybercriminals.

In May 2017, authorities blocked a number of Qatari media websites during a diplomatic crisis between Qatar and several Middle Eastern countries. intelligence officials, the said senior UAE officials orchestrated the hack in order to destabilize Qatar and justify breaking off diplomatic relations immediately after regional leaders were reported to have reached an accord at a landmark counter-extremism conference in Saudi Arabia.

Hackers posted a story on the Qatar News Agency website and related social media accounts that appeared to confirm a popular belief that the emir of Qatar supports political and terrorist groups that pose a threat to neighboring governments. and Arabic-language sites run by news agencies in Iran, such as Fars News and Al Alam TV, over allegations they disseminated antigovernment propaganda, according to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.

The telecommunications company Du details what criteria it uses to block websites in a document available on its website.

Prohibited content includes information related to circumvention tools, the promotion of criminal activities, the sale or promotion of illegal drugs, dating networks, pornography, LGBTI content, gambling sites, unlicensed Vo IP services, terrorist content, and material that is offensive to religion.

Self-censorship is pervasive on social media and state-run news sites refuse to cover controversial issues.

Families of political detainees highlight human rights abuses and communicate on behalf of their loved ones on Twitter, though they have also come under increasing pressure.

Calls to change the ruling system may result in life imprisonment under the cybercrime law.

The law was amended in August 2016 to criminalize use of a fraudulent IP address to “commit a crime or prevent its discovery,” leading many to wonder if using a virtual private network (VPN) to circumvent censorship could result in jail time.

Internet service providers (ISPs) in the UAE are either fully or partially owned by the state, allowing authorities to exert control over the flow of information.

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