Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng African News Agency (ANA)

WARNING: Fake social media posts and misinformation stoking racial tension will land you in jail

By Rudolph Nkgadima Time of article published Jul 15, 2021

Share this article:

SHARING, liking or peddling fake news that incite violence could land you in jail, says cyber expert Danny Myburgh.

In the wake of the aftermath of public violence, which has engulfed some parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, social media has been filled with disturbing images and videos, of black people being attacked by some South Africans of Indian descent.

Social media is now being used as a weapon to incite violence and orchestrate the ongoing unrest. Under the #PhoenixMassacre, gruesome videos and images are circulating on social media, stoking racial tension with fake or out of context posts.

Myburgh says people shouldn’t be eager to forward messages, especially when they promote hate speech.

“People need to be aware that, in terms of Cybercrimes Act, liking a post or sharing a post makes you as liable as the original person, especially when there’s hate speech,” said Myburgh.

The act stipulates that it is an offence to incite violence, or call people to be involved in the destruction of any property on social media.

Under this act, cybercrime is now defined as including, but not limited to, acts such as: the unlawful access to a computer or device, such as a USB drive or an external hard drive; the illegal interception of data; the unlawful acquisition, possession, receipt or use of a password; and forgery, fraud and extortion online.

According to Myburgh, the government does have the capacity to monitor data as well as communication. However, the biggest problem is the quantity.

“It’s easy to investigate one or two people, but if you’ve got thousands of those messages, shared on multiple platforms, the quantity of it makes it difficult to investigate it,” Myburgh said.

He added that although some of the platforms are aimed at creating anonymous communication, which makes it difficult to identify the people, but there are still methods that the government can utilise to trace a person.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Police Minister Bheki Cele also mentioned that a cluster of security ministers were now monitoring all social media platforms and are tracking those who are sharing false information and calling for civil disobedience.

While some of the social media accounts seemed to be used to drive a particular narrative, aimed at stoking racial tensions, many had called for calm between the two communities and, by the afternoon, #PhoenixMassacre had been replaced by #LootingMustFall, #PrayforSA and #CleanupSA.

Social media users can report any account they believe is inciting violence to Twitter itself. The police also urge all communities and groups to reject any call for violence and making this country ungovernable.

“Anyone who has reliable information can report any acts of violence and intimidation to the police on the toll-free number 08600-10111,” said Cele.

Share this article: