President Cyril Ramaphosa signed off on a number of new laws on Wednesday, October 2, 2019. One of these will affect how South Africans use the internet. Plans to implement the Films and Publications Amendment Act – or ‘internet censorship bill’ – were first approved by Parliament in March 2019. Today, the Act has been signed into law among others.
“In the area of printed and audio-visual content, the Films and Publications Amendment Act provides for the establishment, composition and appointment of members of an Enforcement Committee that will, among other tasks, regulate online distribution of films and games,” says Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko. “This extends the compliance obligations of the Films and Publications Act and the compliance and monitoring functions of the Film and Publication Board to online distributors.”
According to Diko, the Amended Act also revises the functions of compliance officers who enter facilities that sell, hire and exhibit films or games.
Under the blanket of monitoring the functions of the Film and Publications Act, the internet censorship bill will also protect children from accessing harmful content on the internet. These measures will include:
Any person who knowingly distributes private sexual photographs and/or films without prior consent will be liable to pay a fine of up to R150 000 or two years of imprisonment.
If the individual is identified or identifiable in the distributed photographs and films, this punishment rises to a R300 000 fine and/or imprisonment of up to four years.
In compliance with the bill, any person who knowingly makes statements of hate speech in any medium – including the internet and social media in particular – will also be subject to a fine of up to R150 000 or two years imprisonment.
Hate speech constitutes as any language that incites imminent violence or amounts to propaganda for war.
If an internet provider is found guilty of hosting or distributing child pornography, propaganda for war, the incitement of violence or the advocation of hatred based on an identifiable group of characteristics, the content will immediately be removed or censored. The internet provider will then also be subject to a fine.