South Africans will soon have to be much more careful and think twice about the messages they send over WhatsApp and other social media platforms, as the Cybercrimes Bill (“the Bill”), which was recently adopted into law and is in the process of being enacted, attempts to police malicious messaging.
Cybercrime is on the rise and the Bill essentially aims to stop these acts, to keep people safe from criminals and terrorists, to improve the security of the country and to bring South Africa in line with other countries’ cyber laws. The practical impact of the Bill on all organisations and individuals is significant and unfortunately mostly negative. It impacts all of us who process data or use a computer.
Contravening the provisions entailed in the Bill could lead to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years, or to both a fine and imprisonment. The Bill fundamentally intends to curb the number of harmful messages, which by definition now covers a wide range of subject areas, that do the rounds on social media.
The Bill incriminates, amongst others, the following acts in particular:
The Bill was first published on 28 August 2015, updated on 19 January 2017 and introduced in Parliament on 22 February 2017, where it currently still sits. There have been extensive comments on the Bill during the public participation period in 2017. These comments have been considered and incorporated and the latest version of the Bill was published on 23 October 2018. The new version of the Bill creates many new offences, some relating to data, messages, computers and networks.
The Bill has come a long way since its first publication and the overall effect of its provisions will be tested over time. Readers are, however, advised to take note of the Bill and its consequences before it is signed into law, as ignorance of the law will not be an excuse.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)