At the beginning of March this year, some newer regulations came into effect right under most of the public’s noses. These regulations could impact the world most people spend more time obsessed over than the tangible one – the online world.
Originally dubbed the Internet Censorship Bill in 2019, the Films and Publications Amendment Act has switched things up for content creators and those who share in South Africa. It was signed by Cyril Ramaphosa on 11 February and came into effect not long after on 1 March.
The Act in short allows the Film and Publications Board (FPB) to have more authority over regulating all online content published in our country. There are also further guidelines on the horizon set to outline what can be distributed on social media, as BusinessTech reports.
Why does the act impact the public who aren’t traditional media creators in film or television? This is because of the online emphasis the Act reiterates.
Some discrepancies with the new Act are linked to people’s concerns over how it will impact free speech online.
The Act, which is supposed to regulate and ‘punish’ prohibited traditional or online content, encloses various sub-topics, from incitement of violence to revenge pornography. As much as many are thankful that a watchdog approach now exists legally toward much of online content, some are concerned with how far it will or can be taken.
“One of my big objections is that if I upload something which someone else finds objectionable, and they think it hate speech, they will be able to complain to the FPB,” stated Ellipsis Regulatory Solutions founder Dominic Cull as per MyBroadband.
YouTube creators particularly still await specific outlines regarding their content, which falls under the film category.
Taking the Act’s wording literally, film could apply to any video content, including those shared on Twitch and TikTok. Would people need to get category regulations for every 15-second video they post? In theory, yes, although how practical this would be is another story.
“The FPB can’t be rationally taken to be saying all Internet content must be classified,” Cull adds.
Whether we as South Africa have the means to undergo such a tumultuous process of overseeing every kind of content shared seems to be a vast expedition at the present. While we can root for there being some legal justice for certain kinds of disturbing content shared, the other side of the coin asks to what level ‘offensive content’ will be perceived as, and by whom.
You can read the full Films and Publications Amendment Act here.