Removing WhatsApp members 'punished with jail time' in Saudi

Removing WhatsApp group members 'can land you prison' in Saudi Arabia
2 min read
20 November, 2021
Legal advisor Ahmed Ajad said admins who remove others from WhatsApp groups could face up to a year in prison, stirring controversy and ridicule on social media
A Saudi legal advisor said WhatsApp group removals could fall under the kingdom's anti-cybercrime law [Getty]

Saudi Arabian legal advisor has said that deleting someone from a WhatsApp group in the kingdom could result in a prison sentence and a fine, sparking controversy on Twitter. 

Saudi legal adviser Ahmed Ajad told Makkah newspaper on Monday that group admins who remove members could face up to a year in jail or a fine of up to 500,000 riyals ($133,300 USD) if their actions cause others harm.

Ajad said the legal consequences could occur under Article 3 of the kingdom's anti-cybercrime law, which deals with defaming or inflicting damage upon others through the use of information technology. However, other lawyers said his application of the law to WhatsApp was "misplaced". 

Ajad told Makkah that the harm inflicted on the deleted member is often "moral", diminishing their value and degrading them. He encouraged "peace" and the use of caution.

His comments have sparked anger, panic and - in some cases - amusement across Saudi Twitter.

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Lawyer Fawaz al-Dakhil told Saudi newspaper Al-Watan that Ajad's interpretation was exaggerated and that the anti-cybercrime law was not applicable in this instance.

Another lawyer, Khalid al-Mahmadi told Al-Watan that WhatsApp group members could file a claim in a civil court for any damages they had sustained from being removed from a group, but that there was no criminal penalty for removing members.

Following Ajad's remarks one Twitter user said the kingdom's laws "oppress the people".

Another Twitter user, identifying herself as "Dr. Hussa", expressed anger at the possibility of individuals being punished for "crimes" on WhatsApp "while a prince is not punished for kidnapping and theft".

Others said they had decided to leave WhatsApp groups following the news. However, some found the possibility of jail-time in this instance funny, with some Twitter users referring to Ajad as a "clown".