Parliament of South Africa

09/14/2017 | News release | Distributed by Public on 09/14/2017 03:15

Cybercrimes and Security in Committee’s Spotlight

The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services yesterday began two days of public hearings on the Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill, with many presenters voicing concerns with sections of the Bill they believe relate to cyberbullying, but which are covered by other legislation.

The Committee heard several presentations from interested parties, including Right 2 Know, Freedom from Religion South Africa, Digital Law Company and the Centre for Constitutional Rights. Most presenters felt Section 16 and Section 17, which predominantly refer to cyberbullying, should be excluded and that Section 18 in its current form, which relates to revenge pornography, should be amended.

The Bill aims to, among other things, create offences and impose penalties for cybercrime, to criminalise the distribution of harmful data messages and to provide for interim protection orders. It also aims to further regulate jurisdiction in respect of cybercrimes, to regulate the power to investigate cybercrimes, and to further regulate aspects relating to mutual assistance in respect of the investigation of cybercrime. It also aims to provide for the establishment of a 24/7 point of contact, to impose obligations on electronic communication service providers and financial institutions to assist in the investigation of cybercrimes and to report cybercrimes, and to provide that the executive may enter into agreements with foreign states to promote cybersecurity.

Right 2 Know said in its presentation that a free and fair internet is crucial. It said the Bill is not framed to adequately deal with cybercrimes. It expressed concern regarding the overreach of state security agencies, which should be kept at bay.

Freedom of Religion South Africa made similar claims, adding that the proposed amendments dealing with cyberbullying are similar to clauses already in the Intimidations Act, and are therefore unnecessary.

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) said in its presentation that between January to June 2017 150 000 digital banking fraud incidents were reported, amounting to R350 million. It said the Bill is a step in the right direction in criminalising cybercrimes in line with international precedent, as it will identify theft-related offences that are currently not covered. It will also aim to regulate powers to investigate cybercrimes.

A private law firm, Michalsons, called for the separation of cyber activities into two bills and for the Committee to only deal with the cybercrimes part for now.

Committee Chairperson Dr Mathole Motshekga urged presenters to remember that with every right comes responsibility. Committee member Mr Bongani Bongo added that cybercrimes are very serious on the continent. Another member, Mr Sam Matiase, said he would have appreciated more presenters reflecting on definitions, especially social media terms. The hearings continue today.

Rajaa Azzakani
14 September 2017