YOUR WHATSAPP MESSAGE MAY RESULT IN A FINE OR IMPRISONMENT
With the development of the internet and social media in the past 20 years, not only has it meant that we have access to the internet and social media 24 hours a day, but it has also made us vulnerable to increasing cyber-attacks.
South Africa, like many other countries, was vulnerable to cyber-attacks for many years, as there was no legislation in place to protect individuals and institutions against these attacks. Since 2017 South Africa tried to develop legislation that would be appropriate for our unique social media climate.
With the Cybercrimes Bill that President Cyril Ramaphosa recently signed, South Africa took the next step to protect its citizens against the growing crime of cyber-attacks. This Bill closely connects to the Protection of Private Information Act (better known as the POPI Act) which gives effect to the right to privacy and against unlawful processing of personal information.
The Cybercrimes Bill focuses mainly on the disclosure of harmful data messages and the sending of such messages on social media, with specific reference to WhatsApp. The new bill not only affects individuals but has a large impact on electronic service providers and financial institutions. The Bill places various obligations on these institutions to report any crime they become aware of and to also disclose any such possibly harmful data to all relevant organisations. If these institutions fail to do so, they could be liable to pay a fine up to R 50 000.00.
The Cyber-crimes Bill creates offences and criminalizes certain messages that are sent via social media. These messages include any message that incites violence or damage to property, threatens a person with violence or damage to property, as well as messages with intimate or explicit images that are sent without all the relevant party’s consent. Other offences covered by this Bill include cyber fraud, extortion, theft of intellectual property, and forgery.
Further provisions are made for other crimes that include interception or interference with computer data and systems. The new Bill could not come at a more suitable time, as cyber-crimes have increased since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic, as people continue to work remotely. If a person commits any of these crimes, it could lead to imprisonment of up to 15 years, a fine, or even both.
Although the new Bill protects us to such an extent from cyber, there is still a duty on us to familiarize ourselves with what we may or may not post and share on social media. It is important to always think twice before we push that share or send button.
Article by Zancha Kruger (Candidate Attorney)
For more information, contact Zancha at firstname.lastname@example.org or 044 601 9900. www.rgprok.co.za
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