Johannesburg – The Right2Know (R2K) campaign has slammed the proposal by the Department of State Security to regulate social media.
“This is a clear move by state securocrats to try clamp down on freedom of expression and increase their powers to censor the internet."
“It comes on the back of a range of existing, deeply problematic censorship policies, including the Film & Publication Board’s internet censorship regulations, the draft Hate Speech Bill, and the new Cybercrimes Bill, which would ‘hand the keys of the internet’ to Minister of State Security David Mahlobo,” said Jayshree Pather, R2K media freedom spokesperson.
Pather said the proposal had been announced at a briefing at which the minister also repeated claims that South Africa is “under siege” from some foreign force that is somehow using the courts, civil society and the media to cause “instability”.
Once again he has made these claims without evidence, said Pather.
Firstly, his reactionary views must be addressed – the independent courts, a vibrant civil society and critical media are essential to the democratic process, especially when state entities fail to act with integrity, transparency or accountability, he said.
“It is the executive’s paranoia and abuse of power that undermines democracy and creates instability. R2K has already raised concerns that South Africa’s state security structures have abused their surveillance powers and shown a disregard for democratic process."
Mahlobo’s ‘regime change’ mantra is part of a recycled narrative where members of the security cluster have tried to paint their critics as ‘threats’ that must be targeted,” he said.
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.
These systems are flawed and users need to be empowered to engage with content critically and decide for themselves whether to trust the content they access.
Giving State Security any role in “regulation” is a sure path to internet censorship, added Pather.