President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed the Film and Publications Amendment Act, also referred to by critics as the ‘internet censorship law’, which will crack down on revenge porn, hate speech and require internet service providers to remove and monitor harmful content.
The amendment aims to better regulate films, games and certain publications in order to protect children from disturbing and harmful content. This includes content that is placed online.
According to Business Tech, the bill has received pushback as it’s critics who are concerned that it could be used for censorship as it gives too much power to the Film and Publications Board which is selected by government and that it is poorly drafted.
Revenge porn, the act of distributing explicit content without consent and with intent to cause harm, has been of growing concern as distributing private intimate messages are difficult to prosecute under current South African law. Under this amendment, distributing this content could result in a possible fine not exceeding R150,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years and/or to both a fine and imprisonment not exceeding two years. If the person is identifiable in the content, this punishment escalates to a R300,000 fine and/or imprisonment not exceeding four years.
South Africa has seen it’s share of online hate speech controversies. From Adam Castavalos to Andile Mngxitama, these incidences have become a regular occurrence on social media. Now, under this bill, any person who knowingly distributes (in any medium including social media) any film, game or publication with amounts to propaganda for war, incites imminent violence or advocates hate speech could be punished with a possible fine not exceeding R150,000 and/or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years.
Internet Access Providers
It is not only individuals who can be prosecuted for offending online content. The bill also identifies internet access providers as having a responsibility to monitor and remove content including child pornography, propaganda for war, incitement of imminent violence or advocating hatred based on an identifiable group characteristic. Should they be found to be hosting any of this content they will be fined.