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South Africa passes new cyber-crimes bill to combat hate speech online

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Parliament has officially passed the Cybercrimes Bill, with the draft legislation now set to be signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

In a bid to curb continuous online crimes on digital platforms in South Africa, a new Cybercrimes Bill has been launched to govern instant messaging behaviour. South Africans from now on will have to start thinking twice about certain types of messages they send over WhatsApp and other forms of social media.

“The legislation wants to reduce the number of harmful text messages that do the rounds on the messaging service. Committing such a crime can lead to “a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years, or to both a fine and imprisonment.”

a quote is taken directly from the bill.

First mooted in 2017, the bill has undergone a number of changes with the main objectives of the bill to:

  • Create offences and impose penalties which have a bearing on cyber crime;
  • To criminalise the distribution of data messages which are harmful;
  • To provide for interim protection orders around these messages; and
  • To further regulate jurisdiction in cyber crime.

The bill also imposes obligations on electronic communications service providers and financial institutions to assist in the investigation of cybercrimes. It also provides that the executive may enter into agreements with foreign states to promote cybersecurity.

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