Today, the world is witnessing significant development in the field of information and
communications. The World Wide Web – internet – became the marvel of the
century; why not since you find it extending across the whole world, becoming within
the reach of young before old people and poor before rich people, linking peoples to
each other, and becoming the means of daily acquaintance and communication among
members of various classes and societies.
Under this sustained growth of the information revolution which our age lives and our
present witnesses, we became facing many risks and phenomena that arise
simultaneously from any civilizational or technological development. With the
appearance of internet in our world and the ability of all people – whether old, young,
uneducated, or educated – to use it without any restrictions or control, these risks have
increased. This web became the tool or place of these risks although it was originally
created for a noble purpose and for serving humanity. A recent group of crimes
emerged on the scene. These crimes are transboundary, easy to commit, have
significant effect, and facilitate crimes that were found since a long time and had
different names. Some call them information crimes, and others call them electronic
crimes or internet crimes. The legislator in the sultanate called them information
technology (IT) crimes. In order to preserve borders and increase protection, countries
hastened to enact new laws or update their existing ones. However, these crimes are
increasing steadily because the situation was different when it is related to the
enforcement of these laws. The largest obstacle in the face of these laws is to apply
them on the ground in an effective way. This is due to people ignorance of them
because they are new and recent laws for unusual crimes that are different from the
other crimes. One of the most important steps of applying these laws is to raise public
awareness of this kind of crimes and the damages resulting from them.
E- blackmail: fear of scandal is the root cause.
Blackmail, which became main part of people speech, is not a new criminal act and
did not emerge with development of technology, but it is one of the old and classical
crimes. However, As internet came to our world, side by side with significant
development of the field of communications and mobiles, they contributed to and
facilitated the occurrence of those offences. Hence, they have become one of the most
dangerous and pernicious crimes not only for individual, but also for families, and
societies as well, resulting in social, security, economic, and health damages.
Blackmail means the attempt to coercively get material, moral, or sexual gains from
the victim, or to threat to disclose any of the secrets, or post any of photos of the
victim to bring harm or shame.
Reasons and methods:
One specialist stated in his study that about 88% of reasons of blackmail are caused
by the victim himself/ herself. Under the significant development in the information
and communication technology, and its widespread prevalence among all classes of
society, privacy has faded, and our personal data became exposed and accessible to
everyone. This contributed greatly to the spread of this phenomenon. Other reasons
including our leniency when using technology, and our disinterest in securing
ourselves as well as to become acquainted with learning about the nature of the
websites, software, and applications we use or deal with.
As for the methods, they can be through using personal photos, particularly with the
great development of mobiles and the emergence of smart phones capable of taking
and storing photos. The phone became a sort of roaming office containing almost
everything, in addition to the cloud computing service or what is known as cloud
services, where photos and data are stored in the virtual world. Sharing photos among
people is also done in the virtual world. Consequently, losing or missing the phone
may be a direct reason for E-blackmail. Also, the phenomenon of selling used phones
without making sure of deleting or destroying photos in these devices may be one
reason. As for the photos stored in websites and internet accounts, if such account is
not secured, there is high chance it can be reason for blackmail. Audio or video
recording of calls and threating to release them if the victim is no respoding is one of
This method is very prevalent among youth; it starts with the acceptance of friend
request on one of the social networks, followed by some audio conversations, and
then video calls which contain pornographic scenes of the victim. Then the threat
takes place. There are also the written messages.
Blackmail in general and electronic blackmail in particular has motives for
committing it. They may be financial motives for the purpose of gaining money,
sexual motives where their victims are mostly women and girls, psychological
motives out of revenge, or immoral motives by using victims in practicing prostitution
New kind of blackmail:
With the development of information technology, a new kind of blackmail which we
can describe it as a mere technological blackmail has emerged. It is called ransom
ware, whose idea is based on sending malware to the device or website of the victim
who is often an institution or entity which provides services or fears for its reputation.
He closes the device or encrypts the data till that institution or entity meets his
demands which are often financial ones.
Laws and their role to face this phenomenon:
As the Omani legislator sought to counter the misuse of information and
communication technology means, Anti-cybercrime law was issued in 2011. Among
the provisions of that law, there is article 18 which stipulates that "whoever uses the
information web or information technology means in threatening or
blackmailing someone to make him do or refrain from doing certain action, even
if this action or refrainment is legal, shall be subject to a penalty of
imprisonment for a term not less than one month and not more than three years,
and to a fine not less than one thousand Omani riyals and not more than three
thousand Omani riyals, or to one of these two penalties. If the threat is for the
purpose of committing a crime or for dishonoring offences, the penalty shall be
temporary imprisonment for a term not less than three years and not more than
ten years and to a fine not less than three thousand Omani riyals and not more
than ten thousand Omani riyals."
It is clear from the text that the legislator criminalized using the internet and other
means of information technology in threatening or blackmailing people and did not
stipulate a particular action. On the other hand, we see that the legislator did not
stipulate that threatening or blackmailing is practiced to make someone do a certain
action, but also to make him refrain from doing a certain action even if this
refrainment is legal.
This crime is also one of the intentional crimes that require the existence of mens rea
with its both components: knowledge and will. On one hand, the criminal must know
that the committed action represents a punishable offence and his/her will must go
towards committing that criminal activity.
The penalty compromises both a custodial penalty which is imprisonment, and a
financial penalty which is fine. In its entirety, it is divided into two forms based on the
gravity of the offence as follows:
Penalty of lesser crimes: as defined by the legislator in the first paragraph of the
article, it is a term not less than one month and not more than three years and a fine
not less than one thousand Omani riyals and not more than three thousand Omani
riyals, or one of these two penalties.
Penalty of aggravated crimes: in respect of aggravated conditions, we see that the
Omani legislator stipulated one condition in which the penalty is aggravated to be
temporary imprisonment for a term not less than three years and not more than ten
years and to a fine not less than three thousand Omani riyals and not more than ten
thousand Omani riyals, if the threat is for the purpose of committing a crime or for
offences against honor.
As for the preventive solutions for information technology crimes in general and for
blackmail in particular, they lie in spreading legal awareness among both genders and
spreading the culture of safe use of this technology, so that none would not fall as an
easily accessible victim. This requires cooperation of all sides including media, home,
school, and society. On the other hand, it requires enhancing the religious influence
and opening channels of communication between families and children based on love,
mercy, and trust.
Dr.: Hussein bin Said Al-Ghafri
Advocate & legal consultant