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How the 'Internet Censorship Law' will change gaming in South Africa

With the gaming community notorious for its participants employing inflammatory language during games, certain remarks made in these fictitious duels may now constitute hate speech. Picture: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

With the gaming community notorious for its participants employing inflammatory language during games, certain remarks made in these fictitious duels may now constitute hate speech. Picture: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

Published Mar 3, 2022

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President Cyril Ramaphosa has approved the Films and Publications Amendment Act, a law that will change the way South Africans use the internet. Not limited to social media, this law will also affect gaming.

With the gaming community notorious for its participants employing inflammatory language during games in order to intimidate opponents, certain remarks made in these fictitious duels may now constitute hate speech.

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MisterFlak, a full-time gamer and YouTuber with over 100 000 subscribers, said as a person who is mixed race, he has often encountered people who are racist and homophobic when gaming.

“You are going to get that type of behaviour; it happens everywhere and in every game. Usually, it is youngsters, not adults, who speak like that,” he said.

MisterFlak said a legal limitation that could curb racism and homophobia in the gaming community would be fantastic but questioned how it would be enforced.

“When people play games ‘anonymously’ they lose all sense of accountability because they hide behind their secret gamer tags. They are quick to say things, but when you try and call them out they become silent.”

The gamer expressed his frustration with the other aspects of the law and said South African creators do not have a voice and are beholden to the government’s ‘ridiculous and absurd’ legislation.

“They are going to try and implement this law half-heartedly but want everything to be submitted to the Film and Publication Board for age ratings.”

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MisterFlak questioned the scope of the law, its functionality, and who it is targeted at. “How does this government think it's going to enforce the law on something like internet images and video uploads. There is no way to prohibit what gets uploaded online,” he said.

The creator said in the worst-case scenario of the government enacting this law, he will bypass it by getting a VPN (virtual private network) and logging into it from a different country like England or the U.S.

“If I dial into another country, and upload from there, the video’s origin will be from that foreign nation and you cannot regulate, enforce or stop that process.”

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Anyone found guilty of using hate speech faces a R150 000 fine or a two-year prison sentence.

*IOL Tech does not condone the use of IP cloaking devices, All views expressed are that of the interviewee.

IOL TECH

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