Internet Bill: ‘We Don’t Want To Control The Internet; We Want To Protect Minors’ – Communication Minister

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Communication Minister Ms Faith Muthambi will present films and publications amendment bill on Tuesday to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications. The bill seeks to “decriminalise the online distribution of adult content and allow for regulations by the Film and Publication Board (FPB)”.

The Films and Publications Amendment Bill was introduced to the National Assembly in November last year. Again, the bill “does not create a new regulatory regime‚ but seeks to strengthen the law by closing the gaps identified in the Films and Publications Act in relation to online content regulation”.

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“The Department of Communications is not seeking to control the internet, but safeguard minors and vulnerable persons in the best way possible,” Muthambi said.

Buzzsouthafrica garnered that topics in the bill include hate speech and propaganda for war and incitement of violence, as well as preventing children from having access to pornographic content online. To this end‚ it provided for the establishment of “a co-regulation system that will allow for accreditation by the FPB of independent classification bodies which will classify their own digital films‚ games and publications.

In a statement, the minister’s office said that the need for Bill came up in response to the “an emergence and avalanche of explicitly sexual and violent content brought in by the new media push and cyberspace that has no physical borders”. She reiterated that government seeks to work with Internet Service Providers (ISP) and the industry to come up with the best regulatory framework.

Internet users won't be controlled- Comm. Minister

“We are witnessing a failure of self-regulation in certain sectors of the industry. Also, state regulation has its limitations within the industry. Therefore, a much coordinated co-regulation model that provides for the involvement of industry and the government is required. Such a model will need to have clearly defined roles, responsibilities and accountability levels,” said Muthambi.



To this end‚ it provided for the establishment of “a co-regulation system that will allow for accreditation by the FPB of independent classification bodies which will classify their own digital films‚ games and publications.

Some people have widely criticised the bill for seeking to infringe on peoples’ right to internet usage. Meanwhile, Phumzile Van Damme, a member of the Democratic Alliance party said the party would vehemently stand against moves such as the imposition of fines or jail time for social media posts which brew violence or advocate hate speech.

‘Western Cape Digital Readiness Assessment 2015’ study showed that Internet access in Western Cape is higher than the national average. The study was commissioned by the province’s department of economic development and tourism and conducted by Research ICT Africa, the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

According the survey, 93.8% of individuals in the province access the internet via a mobile phone, compared to a national average of 70.8%.

Moreover, the survey said that 38% of Western Cape households have a computer with ADSL internet access compared to the national average of 22%.

The survey further portrayed that the average Western Cape resident spends 20.1% on their monthly income on internet connectivity.

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