Sending these types of WhatsApp messages could soon land you in jail in South Africa

Government is looking to revive the Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill which lapsed automatically when parliament was dissolved on 7 May 2019.

The bill aims to bring South Africa in line with other countries’ cyber laws as well as the ever-growing threat of cybercrime.

While the majority of the bill focuses on criminalising the theft and interference of data, it has also introduced new regulations surrounding any ‘malicious’ electronic communication.

These malicious messages include:

  • Data messages which incite damage to property or violence;
  • Data messages which threaten persons with damage to property or violence;
  • Distribution of data message which contains an intimate image without that person’s consent.

The bill states that any person who is found guilty of sending these types of messages is liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years or to both a fine and such imprisonment.

FPB Act

Should it be revived, the proposed Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill will likely be used alongside the Film and Publications Amendment Act which was signed into law by President Ramaphosa at the start of October.

Known as the ‘internet censorship bill’ by some of its opponents, the act introduces a number of changes including harsher rules to protect children from disturbing and harmful content, and to regulate the online distribution of content such as films and games.

Notably, the act states that any person who knowingly distributes private sexual photographs and films without prior consent and with intention to cause the said individual harm shall be guilty of an offence and liable upon conviction.

This includes a possible fine not exceeding R150,000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years and/or to both a fine and imprisonment not exceeding two years.

Where the individual is identified or identifiable in said photographs and films, this punishment rises to a R300,000 fine and/or imprisonment not exceeding four years.

The act also states that any person who knowingly distributes a message which amounts to propaganda for war, incites imminent violence, or advocates hate speech, shall be guilty of an offence.

This includes a possible fine not exceeding R150,000 and/or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years.

While the FPB Act has been signed into law, it will only come into effect on a date decided upon by President Ramaphosa in a government gazette.


Read: 5 major new laws approved by Ramaphosa

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Sending these types of WhatsApp messages could soon land you in jail in South Africa