The Right2Know Campaign (R2K) and the Democratic Alliance on Tuesday lashed out at State Security Minister David Mahlobo, who at the weekend said the regulation of social media in SA was being discussed at government level. At a justice, crime prevention and security cluster media briefing on Sunday, Mahlobo indicated that the African National Congress led government was contemplating regulating South Africa’s social media space. In a statement on Tuesday, R2K said this would be an abuse of power that undermined democracy.
“R2K has already raised concerns that South Africa’s state security structures have abused their surveillance powers and shown a disregard for democratic process.” R2K said members of the state security cluster had tried to paint their critics as “threats” who must be targeted. “Now, out of thin air, we have state security proposing to ‘regulate’ social media.
This is a clear move by state securocrats to try [and] clamp down on freedom of expression and increase their powers to censor the internet.”
R2K said the call from Mahlobo came on the back of a range of existing and “deeply problematic censorship policies”. “Regulation of social media already exists. [Platforms] like Twitter and Facebook have added self-regulation measures to empower users to take action against online harassment and cut down on the spread of fake news and propaganda.” Meanwhile, DA spokesperson on telecommunications and postal services Marian Shinn said the call from Mahlobo was “worrying”.
“Such statements pose a direct threat to media and internet freedom in SA. Instead of making such irresponsible threats, our government should rather distance itself from the continent’s despots when it comes to developing policies and regulations for internet behaviour.” Shinn said Mahlobo’s concerns about false news and scams needed to be looked at against the backdrop of “the pending 2019 general election and the increasing denial of digital rights by African governments feeling threatened by the citizen empowerment that the world wide web facilitates”.
Shinn highlighted how the SA government, “along with cyber bullies such as Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and India”, had voted against the United Nations Human Rights Council’s declaration that access to the internet was a human right.
The regulation of social media, in light of issues including the spread of fake news and scams, is being considered, says Minister of State Security David Mahlobo. He was speaking on Sunday during a question and answer session with journalists following a press briefing by the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster (JCPS) brief. Mahlobo, responding to a question by a reporter about fake news, said aside from being used for what it was meant for, social media was being abused to, among other things, peddle false information.
He said this was not unique to South Africa. “We are contemplating to regulate the space. Even the best democracies that are revered, they regulate the space,” Mahlobo said.
He understood that this would not be an easy thing to do and could be seen to be “interfering with human rights”. It would therefore need to be discussed with various bodies and forums. “We will be discussing how do we regulate it,” Mahlobo said.
Aside from people misrepresenting themselves on social media, or even purporting to be others, he said problems included photographs being set up to depict fake scenes.
Photoshopping images was also an issue.
- ^ News24 (www.news24.com)
- ^ The ANC government will try to take away our Internet freedom and we must fight them (mybroadband.co.za)