A new Cybercrimes Bill in SA

South Africa’s Green-Lit Cybercrimes Bill Polices “Intimate Images” On WhatsApp

By  |  December 8, 2020

South Africa’s Cybercrimes Bill, which was first drafted in 2017 and has now been okayed by parliament, has a number of provisions that cater to the protection of electronic communications in the country.

And one of the more interesting parts of the new legislation that was passed by Parliament on December 2 and is now only awaiting the President’s signature, is that bit that puts the weight of the law on “intimate images” shared on WhatsApp, or other online media channels.

According to reports, the bill specifically addresses the sending of intimate images over any electronic communications platform without the subject’s consent, classifying this as an offence.

This is true if the person is identified as being displayed in the image, if they are described as being displayed in the image but cannot be identified, and if they are identified from other information as being displayed in the image.

The wording of the bill defines an “intimate image” as the depiction of a person (real or simulated) in which they are nude, their genital organs or anal region are exposed, or if they are a female person, transgender person or intersex person, their breasts are displayed.

The definition also extends to images in which the covered regions listed above are exposed in the image.

According to the contents of the new bill, even if one is not the creator of an intimate image or video sent without the subject’s consent, that person commits an offence by forwarding it.

The same is true of threats to people and property sent over WhatsApp, social media, email, or any other electronic communication.

In essence, it can be said if one receives an intimate image, video, or similar media over WhatsApp, or any other platform, and forward it to others without the consent of the person identified in the media, that person will be guilty of an offence.

This is true whether they created the image or not, and whether or not they know the person identified in the image or video.

This regulation also extends to photoshopped images and deep fakes, as well as pictures or videos which do not show the subject’s face but in which their identity is described.

Among other objectives, South Africa’s new Cybercrimes Bill aims to outlaw and punish the distribution of data messages that are harmful (such as the disclosure of intimate images without the subject’s consent, or the sending of threats and incitement to violence), and to crack down on cybercrime in South Africa.

The bill also imposes obligations on electronic communications service providers and financial institutions to assist in the investigation of cybercrimes.

As per the modalities of legal proceedings against the offences highlighted above, the new bill allows for the affected parties to present screenshots, image files, messaging records, and more as evidence that an offence has been committed.

Generally, the Cybercrimes Bill dictates that any person who discloses a data message to a single person, group of persons or the public with the intention to incite damage or violence is guilty of an offence.

This could include Facebook and Twitter posts and messages, as well as private WhatsApp messages sent within a group or an individual chat. It’s all part of a raft of new laws guiding the sending of messages and electronic communications in South Africa.

Featured Image Courtesy: TheAfricaReport

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