State polic­ing of so­cial me­dia looms

Cy­ber­crimes Bill to fight fraud but some fear more in­ter­net con­trol

Cape Argus - - NEWS - Yolisa Tswanya

BIG Brother will be watch­ing you as you post those harm­ful mes­sages on so­cial me­dia and you could end up with a three-year jail sen­tence. That is if the Cy­ber­crimes and Cy­ber­se­cu­rity Bill is passed by Par­lia­ment’s jus­tice com­mit­tee.

Right2Know said while they sup­port ini­tia­tives to fight ac­tual cy­ber­crimes like fraud and iden­tity theft, they said they re­ject pro­vi­sions made in the bill.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion said the bill will hand fur­ther power to state se­cu­rity struc­tures, al­low­ing them con­trol of in­ter­net gover­nance in the coun­try.

Right2Know spokesper­son Mur­ray Hunter said their main in­ter­est was to pro­tect the pub­lic.

“We are con­cerned that it’s part of a move of the state to con­trol the in­ter­net. The state’s spy­ing power is be­ing abused and we see this as part of a move to get more power.”

Hunter said they were op­pos­ing Chap­ter 3, among oth­ers, of the bill, which speaks to com­mu­ni­ca­tion on so­cial me­dia.

“Chap­ter 3 of the Bill lays the ground­work for heavy-handed state polic­ing of so­cial me­dia users, as var­i­ous kinds of ‘harm­ful mes­sages’ will now be a new form of crime.

“The bill will even make it a crime to post ‘in­her­ently false’ in­for­ma­tion on so­cial me­dia. Free­dom of ex­pres­sion must be pro­tected on­line and we do not be­lieve the Min­is­ter of State Se­cu­rity should be pass­ing judge­ment on what is true or false on­line.”

Chap­ter 11 of the Bill will al­low for the min­is­ter to de­clare any de­vice, net­work or in­fra­struc­ture on the in­ter­net to be “crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion”.

Di­rec­tor of dis­pute res­o­lu­tion at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr at­tor­neys, Tracy Co­hen said the bill is con­tro­ver­sial.

“It raises nu­mer­ous is­sues which re­quire de­bate such as (over) reach, pos­si­ble un­in­tended con­se­quences and ef­fect on other laws such as the Pro­tec­tion of Per­sonal In­for­ma­tion Act and Rica. A frame­work is nec­es­sary to com­bat and pros­e­cute cy­ber­crimes in South Africa – the ques­tion is how much amend­ment is re­quired to make this an ef­fec­tive one.”

Co­hen said the bill, should it be passed into law, will have far- reach­ing im­pli­ca­tions for in­di­vid­u­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Par­lia­ment spokesper­son Ra­jaa Az­za­kani said com­mit­tee chair­per­son Mathole Mot­shekga would only com­ment af­ter the pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion process.

Lawyer Henno Bothma said there are cur­rently no laws gov­ern­ing what peo­ple post on so­cial me­dia. “The rules of defama­tion on so­cial me­dia are sim­i­lar to defama­tion in the nor­mal course of busi­ness… There is not ab­so­lute de­fence in a defama­tion case, it has not been en­acted yet, but defama­tion comes from com­mon law.”

He said cases of defama­tion on so­cial me­dia were be­ing learnt about by the courts as new cases were re­ceived.

BIG BROTHER: A new bill could al­low gov­ern­ment to mon­i­tor so­cial me­dia.

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