JEDDAH: Saudis have expressed their disapproval of the practices of some social media influencers who have exploited their accounts to collect more followers and win more advertisements while flouting social ethics and governing regulations.
These violations go against the Saudi Anti-Cyber Crime Law and have also gained the attention of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) for publishing misleading food, drug and cosmetic ads in a clear violation of the country’s online publishing regulations.
According to an SFDA report released last September, drug enforcement officers seized more than 40 million packages of illegal cosmetic products during inspections carried out throughout the Kingdom in the first half of 2020.
The large quantities of illegal cosmetics would not be available if it were not for influencers who dishonestly promote them on social media, Salah Al-Zahrani, a schoolteacher, told Arab News.
“Nearly all women are interested in cosmetics and the illegal cosmetics dealers know this,” she said. “So they pay influencers, especially female ones, large amounts to convince their followers to order and purchase unhealthy products.”
The report added that SFDA inspectors closed 95 facilities, identified another 83 that had been operating without a permit, shut down three production lines and withdrew 1,600 samples.
Bullying is another online violation that has been on the rise. Some influencers will unlawfully film or photograph ordinary people, especially those who are less fortunate and then mock them with indecent comments.
One recent example that has been circulating on social media platforms was when a man photographed a young woman while she worked at a cafe. Without her permission, the influencer then published the photo with a sarcastic comment: “She looks like our housemaid. It seems that she has been tasked to work overtime after Ramadan came to an end.”
Nawaf Ibrahim, a university senior student, said: “A respectful person would never comment on people in such a disrespectful and vulgar way. That is why many Saudis rushed to denounce his intrusive comments.”
Dr. Abdullah Ghazi, a marital and family psychological counseling specialist, commented through his Twitter account that such behaviors reflect “a mucky mixture of racism and misogyny, stemming from a personality that is unable to accept the recent change in society. People with these qualities tend to show negative reactions when a positive change is put into practice.”
Speaking to Arab News, Waleed Darraj, a lawyer, said the offender committed a number of crimes in one single online post.
“Taking photos of people without their permission is an infringement of their private life and this is a crime,” he said.
“Another crime he committed was defaming the cafe worker and publishing that on a social media platform. According to Article 3 of the Anti-Cybercrime Law, violators will be penalized with imprisonment not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding SR500,000 ($133,32400).”
The country’s Anti-Cybercrime Law was established to deter activities such as accessing websites blocked by authorities (sites containing pornography or sensitive material, for example), hacking into people’s private accounts, or posting politically sensitive messages on social media.
Saudi Arabia’s full Anti-Cybercrime Law can be viewed online, along with the fines and punishments attached to the various crimes.
Darraj said the offender, in this case, should also be held accountable for his rude comments against the woman.
“As for the insulting comments, this is a private right for the woman and it is normally left to the court to decide the appropriate punishment,” he added. “In fact, the offender deserves to be punished for the series of crimes he committed with that irresponsible behavior, which the whole Saudi society rejects.”
The lawyer reminded all citizens in the Kingdom to be careful when using social media websites and to respect other people so that they can avoid such punishments.