JEDDAH: Under the Saudi law of cybercrimes, pranksters can face a punishment of SR5 million (more than $1.3 million) and three years in prison, according to a law expert.
Dr. Majed Garoub told Arab News that posting pranks on social media is a crime in Saudi Arabia, and it is classified as a violation of the country’s Anti-Cyber Crime Law.
“The punishment for such crime ranges from SR500,000 to SR5 million or imprisonment from six months to three years. However, both penalties can be applied, depending on the nature of the violating content.”
He added that posting pranks on social media is a violation even if it is a prank that has consent.
“A crime is a crime. We now have a law that criminalizes these activities and considers them as offensive. It is also considered a crime if someone reposts, likes or retweets a prank,” Garoub said.
Giving his personal opinion, the lawyer believes that anyone who reposts, likes or retweets a violating content should be penalized with the maximum punishment. However, he said that legal punishment takes the circumstances of every violation into consideration.
Garoub justified his point of view by saying that the first violator might have committed the content under the influence of certain emotional factors or be unaware of its negative effect, but the one who retweets or reposts it should have watched the content, reaffirming his belief in the content.
As for juvenile violators, Garoub said that young people are treated differently.
“The authorities require them to appear for investigation through a certain mechanism that takes into consideration their age and the presence of their guardians. There are special courts, youth detention centers for the offenders who are still underage,” he said.
He added that investigators and judges also consider the age of the violator and apply the punishments and imprisonment decisions to match their age and their illegal acts.
Speaking about the difference from a legal perspective between the pranks that some people post on social media and what we see on television, Garoubs said that pranks on social media are different from those on TV as the latter present comedy shows.
“Legally, the two are different. The TV shows are subject to the regulations of the General Commission for Audiovisual Media while the violations posted on social media platforms are subject to the Anti-Cyber Crime Law,” he said.
Hasan Faleh Al-Nahsi, a Saudi social media influencer, said that some social media users make pranks to collect as many followers as they can.
“Some of them also think that it is a means to please their followers, and that has become a phenomenon on social media. However, people should be aware that these activities are unlawful. Awareness campaigns should also be conducted to warn social media users against the negative impact of these illicit activities,” Al-Nahsi told Arab News.
According to Khaled Al-Zahrani, a specialist in psychology, social media platforms, including Twitter, TikTok and many others, have attracted various segments of society of both genders and different age groups for different reasons.
“Many young and adult social media users have found these social media applications a place to seek fame and even an income. For these reasons, these users sometimes tend to talk about controversial issues or tackle them in a funny way. Their goal is to gain followers and increase the view numbers of the materials they produce or publish,” Al-Zahrani said.
Al-Zahrani said that these people’s legal knowledge about cybercrimes is limited. They may also be unaware of the society’s cultural background, and this is perhaps because they are exposed to different sources of cultures and information and they think such things are accepted in Saudi society.
“These people are controlled by the rules of the social media platform they are using, which they will be penalized for in case they violate them,” he said.
In the case of others, Al-Zahrani said, some of those who produce prank content may be trying to market themselves as comedians. “However, the goal is money,” he said.