Mixed reaction to online censorship bill

Johannesburg - Fin24 users are divided on whether impending internet regulation in South Africa will be good or bad for the country.

On Monday, Fin24 reported that Cabinet has approved the submission of the films and publications amendment bill to adapt the law to technological changes.

These changes include catering for online and social media platforms “in order to protect children from being exposed to disturbing and harmful media content in all platforms (physical and online)”.

In particular, the bill seeks to curb children’s exposure to online pornography.

However, the amendment bill is set to be informed by a draft policy that has been criticised for potentially seeking to limit internet freedoms in South Africa.

For example, the Film and Publications Board (FPB) has said it wanted all internet material to be classified in South Africa..

“The policy appears to apply to any person who uploads online content, be it via Facebook, Instagram, a blog, or any other online platform. This opens the door for the state to impinge on citizens’ constitutional right to freedom of expression and to impart information,” Gavin Davis, the Democratic Alliance shadow minister for communications, told Fin24.

The contents of the amendment bill still need to be disclosed and gazetted. Moreover, the communications portfolio committee will have an opportunity to amend the bill.

Fin24 users react

But in the meantime Fin24 users have expressed mixed views on the impending bill and it’s possible consequences for internet freedom in South Africa.

Fin24 user Joe expressed his support for the regulation in terms of its intention to curb online pornography viewing:

“The sooner we protect moral obligations the better we will live, as history proves. Stopping a nudist from walking naked in the city centre is also censorship yet we know it's necessary, just as a genuine survey of South Africa with correct unbiased and undirected questioning will reveal that we support some censorship, which is better for us and our children.”

Fin24 user Marian also expressed her support of the upcoming bill:

“I agree 100% with censorship. The film and website industry is far too liberal with what it shows. Practically every movie has a sex scene or two. Even if the sex scenes have nothing to do with the story line they still pop it in. And the graphic violence gives me nightmares so I just don’t watch but the kids do.”

But Fin24 user Brian said that the bill is a guise for internet censorship of content that could oppose the government and ruling African National Congress (ANC).

“The ANC are so scared that the population will turn against them that they have to remove more and more of our rights. This is the tip of the iceberg and we should be fighting more vigorously to stop this bill,” said Brian.

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