So far, they've closed over 10,000 social media accounts.

Jojo Puthuparampil is a business news writer for Inc. Arabia.

As part of its efforts to protect trademarks, Dubai’s Department of Economic Development (DED) has shut down 8,894 social networking accounts that were used to peddle counterfeit goods last year.

The move is also aimed at eliminating practices that are harmful to e-commerce, according to DED’s commercial compliance and consumer protection (CCCP) unit.

The electronic compliance section in CCCP tracked the fraud and closed down the accounts in collaboration with owners and representatives of the brands that were subject to the infringement.

Together, the accounts were found to have more than 94.5 million followers. Over 80% were Instagram accounts, although other platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, were also used by the violators.

Social networking accounts have come in handy for many who trade in counterfeit goods nowadays but the Electronic Compliance section maintains tight vigil to prevent such misuse of modern technology and protect the reputation of Dubai as a competitive business hub, Ibrahim Behzad, director of intellectual property rights protection management in CCCP, said in a statement.

The number of social networking accounts closed down in 2016 was 200% higher compared to that in 2015 as more violators resorted to social media thinking such sites are safe.

However, the Department of Economic Development maintained round-the-clock vigil and acted on complaints from trademark owners, Behzad said

A variety of counterfeit goods including bags, perfumes, watches, cosmetics, phones and accessories were being displayed on the social networking sites, according to Behzad.

The DED team raided a number of villas, warehouses and apartments that were used to stock counterfeits and confiscated goods.

Behzad urged consumers, especially women, not to fall prey to social networking accounts that promote counterfeit products.

A large majority of the counterfeit products are aimed to lure women. Counterfeiting compromises the health and safety of the consumers, he said.

Recently, mobile photo sharing app Instagram said its community has crossed the 63 million mark across the Middle East and North Africa.

Globally, 600 million people use the platform each month while 400 million use it each day. Besides, around 150 million use Instagram Stories every day. Also, 500,000 advertisers are using Instagram to grow their business.

Over the last two years, a number of local brands have taken to Instagram to share campaigns, including Saudi Telecom, Alshaya, Emirates, Dubai Tourism and Loreal.
Instagram has doubled in size from 300 million to 600 million in the last two years alone, said Jonathan Labin, managing director, Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan at Facebook.

Over 63 million people in MENA use Instagram every month – making the region one of Instagram’s fastest-growing communities globally, according to Labin.

Last month, a survey by the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority found Facebook and messaging app WhatsApp to be the most popular social media platforms among users in the UAE.

As per the survey, 97% of respondents in UAE use WhatsApp while 89% use Facebook. Video sharing site YouTube finished third behind WhatsApp and Facebook with 73%.
There are clear differences in usage patterns between citizens and residents.

While citizens preferred WhatsApp (96%), Instagram (78%) and Snapchat (62%) in that order, residents preferred WhatsApp (97%), followed by Facebook (93%) and YouTube (75%).

LinkedIn (16%) and Snapchat (%) are least popular social media platforms among users in the country.