South African Parliament opens the new Cyber Crime Bill to public comment

The South African Parliament has invited the public to comment on the controversial new Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill, which imposes penalties on cyber crime.

South African Parliament has today opened up the impending Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Amendment Bill – which aims to bring the country’s cyber laws into alignment with those of other countries – to public comment.
The bill, which proposes to introduce several new and somewhat controversial laws, includes prescribed penalties for committing cybercrime – such as jail time up to three years – for ‘malicious’ electronic communication.
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The Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Amendment Bill has varying intentions; among the most notable impacts of the bill is the creation offenses and penalties bearing on cybercrimes, as well as the criminalisation of the distribution of data messages which are interpreted to be ‘harmful’.
Jail time of up to three years or a fine can be issued if electronic messages are found to have incited malicious damage to property, intimidates or harrases a person to harm themselves or another, is inherently false and aimed at causing psychological distress, or is intimate in nature and distributed without prior consent.
The Bill further imposes implications on providers of electronic communications platforms (such as internet service providers and cellular networks) as well as financial institutions to assist in the investigation and reporting of cybercrimes, and enables South Africa’s Executive to enter into agreements with foreign states to promote cyber security.
The bill arrives amidst wider moves by the international community to impose closer scrutiny on online affairs; recently, the United Kingdom passed the controversial Snoopers’ Charter – officially known as the Draft Communications Data Bill – which gives government agencies far wider access to not only phone records, but further browsing activity, text messages, and social media updates.
South African Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development has insisted that the Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Amendment Bill is not to be treated as an extension of government’s surveillance; offering that “data is merely a means to commit offenses such as fraud, damage of programmes and computer systems, extortion, forgery and uttering. It can also be used to commit murder by remotely switching of a respiratory system or terrorism by overloading the centrifuges of a nuclear station or remotely opening the sluices of a dam which causes large scale flooding.”
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What are your thoughts? Do you plan to comment on the bill? Be sure to let us know your opinion in the comments below!
Follow Bryan Smith on Twitter: @bryansmithSA