Twitter and Facebook users should think twice before pressing the “send” button and posting sexual content. They could be charged with a crime.
Those innocent before-and-after semi-nudes showing off your weight loss, your raunchy picture or YouTube video could get you a criminal record once new regulations become law. Hate speech will also be prosecuted.
The regulations are contained in the Film and Publication Board’s online regulation policy document, which was approved by its council last month. The regulations will come into force once approved by Communications Minister Faith Muthambi.
The board will soon publicise the regulations.
Dominic Cull, a lawyer at electronics and internet specialists Ellipsis Regulatory Solutions, said the regulations would essentially criminalise content of a sexual nature, even an innocent semi-nude picture.
“So what they’re trying to do is really difficult.
“There’s also a huge issue with videos of school kids. How you deal with that? I don’t know,” said Cull.
The board will regulate content where:
• A publication contains sexual conduct which violates or shows disrespect for the right to human dignity of any person, degrades a person, or constitutes incitement to cause harm, advocates propaganda for war, incites violence, or advocates hatred based on any identifiable group characteristic and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.
• A publication which would be classified XX or Refused Classification (RC).
• A film which would be classified RC, XX, or X18, or which contains a scene which may be disturbing or harmful to, or age-inappropriate for, children.
• A complaint is received.
Cull acknowledged, however, that there had been a “major improvement” in the final document in that it recognised that it was not possible to regulate everything.
The policy setting out the regulations states that the rise of user-generated content, supported by technological advancements in smartphones and the availability of user distribution tools such as YouTube and other global digital media platforms, “has shifted the nature of media users from audiences to being participants”.
It reads: “More and more South Africans, the majority of which are children, are using contact services such as Facebook and Twitter. The bulk of this media content is unclassified content on online platforms.
“The volume of user-generated content is enormous. It is estimated that 300 hours of video, much of it user-generated content, is uploaded to YouTube alone every minute.”
Micah Reddy of the Right2Know Campaign said the policy had improved slightly from a previous draft, but that it raised concerns about online content.
He said there could not be so much vagueness when dealing with regulating internet content.
“It’s not for the board to be policing the internet in a very sweeping way,” said Reddy.
He said the criminal justice system already dealt with hate speech and child pornography.
Board CEO Themba Wakashe said it consulted extensively with the industry and civil society.
“Some critics mistakenly thought the intention of the board, in terms of the policy, was to regulate the internet.
“The policy is aimed at online content co-regulation between the board and industry at large,” said Wakashe.
He said the digital shift in distribution platforms “also has implications for the board in terms of exposure of children to unclassified content on online platforms”.
Source: Herald Live