President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Cybercrimes Bill into law more than a month ago which states that it’s a crime to send harmful messages on social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Twitter amongst others.
A person who is convicted of an offence under the Cybercrimes Act is liable to a fine or imprisonment for a period of up to fifteen years, or to both as may be ordered in terms of the offence.
According to EWN, the Cybercrimes Act defines three types of harmful messages that have been criminalised in South Africa. These include:
- Data message which incites damage to property or violence.
- Data message which threatens persons with damage to property or violence.
- Disclosure of data message of intimate image.
“As a society, we have noticed of late the rise of online-based conduct in the form of spreading malicious and harmful message,” Director and head of Data Privacy and Cybercrime Practice at Werksmans Attorneys, Ahmore Burger-Smidt said to BusinessTech.
“The question should be asked – to what extent has this contributed to the current dissidence,” she added after pointing towards recent posts circulating on Twitter which encouraged the violent protest action with the hashtags #ShutdownSA and #FreeJacobZuma.
“[The Cybercrimes Act] can introduce various efficiencies in the investigation and prosecution of cybercrimes such as mandated cooperation with law enforcement by electronic communications service providers, the establishment of a designated ‘Point of Contact’ which is meant to be a special, cybercrime dedicated structure within the South African Police Service (SAPS) and a requirement to train members of SAPS in aspects relating to the detection, prevention and investigation of cybercrime.
“With such measures, which enable increased human and operational capacity, individuals who are acting as the catalysts for ongoing violence and unrest can be traced and held to account for their actions,” she said.
The Cybercrimes Act, however, remains an unavailable tool in the armoury of our law enforcement as it will only come into force on a date still to be proclaimed in the Government Gazette, Burger-Smidt maintained.