Social Media Risks on National Security Issues : Analysis of Jordanian Law

19 January, 2017

“National Security issue” is a big challenge for government and parliaments.  A national security challenge can emerge when a government protects its citizens against all kinds of "national" crises through a variety of power projections, such as political power, diplomacy, economic power, military might, and so on. Security and stability in Jordan impacted the conflicts in the Middle East because the Kingdom is surrounded with a belt of fire from every border. These conflicts have motivated terrorists to attack Jordan several times. Their purpose is to threaten stability and national security in the Kingdom.

In each terrorist attack, the press and citizens started publishing videos, articles, or even statements on social media in order to clarify what’s happening on the ground. Some of these publications reflect the real circumstances of the attack, but other publications cause concerns for the government and the Jordanian people. Therefore, in most terrorism cases, competent authorities have issued a publication prohibition in order to avoid any concerns and troubles that might damage national security in Jordan. Most publications that caused concerns in Jordan have been published on social media,[1] and a publication prohibition order basically targets social media users. The questions that might be asked are: What is the meaning of a publication prohibition order? What is the impact of defamation crimes through social media on national security in Jordan?

Publication Prohibition Order

A publication prohibition order is a court order that prohibits the public and the media from disseminating certain details of an otherwise public judicial proceeding. This order’s purpose is to prevent any false allegations that might cause trouble and concerns; the order also ensures a fair trial, the right to freedom of expression, and the administration of justice.

The Jordanian Press and Publication Law No. 4 of 2015 stipulated that the print media is prohibited to publish the investigation records of the cases before delivering them to the competent court. Indeed, this kind of publication is basically prohibited according to the general principles under the Jordanian Criminal Procedures Law No. 9 of 1961.[2] According to these principles, investigations before the prosecutor are secret and no one has the right to release them to public. Therefore, when analyzing the legal rules of the Jordanian Press and Publication Law, we find that:

1) A publication prohibition rule aims to provide prohibitions in the cases that cause hate speech or public concerns in Jordan. The previous legal rule for publication prohibition that was canceled after modifying the law stipulated that the printing press is prohibited from publishing anything related to investigation stages during the investigation period, unless the public persecutions department allowed such publication. The Jordanian public prosecutor for the state security court issued a publication prohibition order in the Nahed Hattar case.[3] He stated in his order that “publications that contain news or information related to Hattar’s investigation case are prohibited regardless of the publication’s method, which might be social media, internet websites, or by media.” The prosecutor justified his order based on two reasons: keeping the secrecy of investigation and preserving the public order.

2) The publication prohibition order that ruled under Article 39 of the Jordanian Press and Publication Law came to prevent publishing investigation records which are secret according to the Jordanian Criminal Procedures Law. Indeed, the legislator intended to prevent publishing all kinds of publications that probably cause prejudice to the public order.

3) The Jordanian Press and Publications Law prohibits the print media from publishing investigation records. Print media, according to the legal rules, are those that are issued daily or regularly under specific numbers in order to publish them to the public.[4] Publications on social media can be considered as electronic media, not print media. This means that publications on social media in general are not included in publication prohibition order according to the Jordanian Press and Publication Law. The only social media publications that are included in the law are those that have been issued from printing media outlets on social media. For example, when Alghad newspaper (a print media) publishes investigation records for a certain case on its Facebook page, Article 39 of the Press and Publication Law can be applied on social media publications.

Article 39 of the Jordanian Press and Publication Law supposed that its provision should be absolutely applied; the legal provision does not provide a discretionary authority for the court to issue a publication prohibition order because the prohibition should be applied by default. The court discretionary authority restricted in a publication permission order,[5] not for a publication prohibition order. Therefore, the public prosecutor’s order for pa ublication prohibition is a reminding notification of the legal provision.

The Jordanian Press and Publication Law restricted the application of publication prohibition order to print media. So, non-print electronic media are excluded from applications of Article 39. However, the next section will discuss the application of the Jordanian legal rules on defamation crimes committed on social media.

Defamation crimes on social media

The Jordanian legislative authority enacted a private law regarding electronic crimes, the Jordanian Electronic Crimes Law No. 27 of 2015. According to these legal rules, crimes that are committed on informative network or information system are subject to the application of the Jordanian Electronic Crimes Law.

A claim of defamation relies basically on personal rights allegation before the victim. This means a public rights claim that start before the public prosecutions department is not subject to the application without personal rights allegation. But in an electronic defamation case, the Jordanian E-Crimes Law clarified under Articles 11 and 17 that e-defamation crime is subject to a public rights claim before the public prosecutor, regardless of the case of personal rights allegation that starts before the victim. In this regard, the legal jurisprudence provided two approaches as follows:

1) Some jurists support pursuing anyone who has committed e-defamation regardless of personal right allegations. They justified their perspective based on the fact that Jordanian public figures and high officers in the Kingdom, or even outside its borders, cannot pursue each criminal who has committed an e-defamation crime; defamation on social media is very widespread and publication methods cannot easily controlled. Furthermore, defamation publications on social media may reach to lots of users. Therefore, the reputation of public figures and officers might be injured. For these reasons, there is a justification for pursuing anyone who has committed a defamation crime on social media without requesting personal right allegations before the victim.  

2) Other jurists’ perspective is different. According to their approach, defamation crimes committed in the real world more harmful than defamation crimes committed on social media, but at the end of the day, and for fairness standards, the legislative authority should uniformly treat the cases of pursuing criminals who committed defamation crimes, regardless whether they were committed in the real or virtual world.

The risk of social media impacting security cases is not limited; there are many dangerous crimes committed on social media and classified as terrorism crimes. In case number 9052/2014, the Jordanian state security court convicted the defendant who published a Facebook post accusing a friendly state of practicing a terrorist activity.

During the period of writing this essay, the Jordanian government has stated that the Legislation and Opinion Bureau is going to prepare a draft for social media and hate speech in order to issue a law in the near future. Indeed, this law is required due to the weakness of the current legal rules that deal with publication prohibitions on social media, and defamation and hate speech crimes committed on social media.


Hate speech publications have increased in recent years; many crimes have been committed as a result of publications on social media. The Jordanian government should take into consideration some important points to control hate speech and defamation publications on social media:
  1. It is important to enact legal rules for hate speech crimes committed on social media.
  2. Hate speech crimes include publishing or republishing posts, images, information, and data that incite individuals or public institutions in Jordan.
  3. The new rules can grant courts a discretionary authority to issue publication prohibition orders in certain cases, because current legal rules do not entitle Jordanian courts to issue publication prohibition orders on social media.
  4. The legislative authority can modify the Jordanian Electronic Crimes Law to cover the case of pursuing persons who committed an electronic defamation crime without a personal rights allegation before the victim. It’s better to uniformly apply the judicial process and sanctions for all defamation crimes, regardless of whether they are committed in the real or virtual world.
  5. Hate speech and social media law can stipulate for such rules regarding the case of pursuing those who commit hate speech crimes based on public rights claim, regardless of the personal rights allegation issue before the victim.
References and Further readings
[1] There is no precise definition for social media networks but it can be defined according to Article One of the Jordanian Communication Law No. 13 of 1995 as an electronic method that being used to transferring, broadcasting, receiving or sending signs, voices, images, or data. Social Media can be inserted under “information system” terminology that is mentioned in the Jordanian Electronic Crimes Law No. 27 of 2015. Information system is a collective of programs and tools that are being used for creation of e-data and information or even for delivering, processing, saving, managing, or showing them by electronic methods. 
[2] See Article 64 of the Jordanian Criminal Procedures Law.
[4] Article 2 of the Jordanian Presses and Publications Law.
[5] Article 39 of the Jordanian Press and Publication Law stipulates “unless the public persecutions department allowed such publication.”

This article was written by intellectual property expert Mr. Huthaifa Albustanji