What the new Cybercrimes Bill means for your behaviour on WhatsApp

By Masabata Mkwananzi Time of article published Dec 4, 2020

Share this article:

In recent years, online crimes have been growing in a breakneck rate, leaving many people the victims of crimes on digital platforms around the country. Now, a new Cybercrimes Bill has been passed to govern instant messaging behaviour.

South Africans have to think twice before sending out certain messages over WhatsApp and other social media platforms.

The South African Parliament has officially passed the Cybercrimes Bill, with the draft legislation now set to be signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

According to BusinessTech, the bill was first put forward in 2017 and has undergone a number of changes with the main objectives of the bill to:

Create offences and impose penalties which have a bearing on cybercrime;

To criminalise the distribution of data messages which are harmful;

To provide for interim protection orders around these messages; and

To further regulate jurisdiction in cybercrime.

The bill also imposes obligations on electronic communications service providers and financial institutions to assist in the investigation of cybercrimes. It provides that the executive may enter into agreements with foreign states to promote cybersecurity.

Here are some of the detailed malicious messages that are covered by the bill:

Data message which incites damage to property or violence

Any person who discloses, by means of an electronic communications service, a data message to a person, group of persons or the general public with the intention to incite:

The causing of any damage to property belonging to; or

Violence against a person or a group of persons is guilty of an offence.

Data message which threatens persons with damage to property or violence

A person commits an offence if they send a message which threatens a person with:

Damage to property belonging to that person or a related person; or

Violence against that person or a related person.

Disclosure of intimate image

Any person (Person A) who unlawfully and intentionally discloses, by means of an electronic communications service, a data message of an intimate image of another person (Person B) without their consent is guilty of an offence.

In these cases, ‘Person B’ includes:

The person who can be identified as being displayed in the data message;

Any person who is described as being displayed in the data message, irrespective of the fact that the person cannot be identified as being displayed in the data message; or

Any person who can be identified from other information as being displayed in the data message.

The bill defines an ‘‘intimate image’’ as a depiction of a person which is real or simulated, and made by any means in which:

Person B is nude, or the genital organs or anal region of Person B is displayed, or if Person B is a female person, transgender person or intersex person, their breasts, are displayed; or

The covered genital or anal region of Person B, or if Person B is a female person, transgender person or intersex person, their covered breasts, are displayed.

The section also includes a consideration on privacy in that the message will be considered an offence if Person B retains a reasonable expectation of privacy at the time that the data message was made in a manner that:

Violates or offends the sexual integrity or dignity of B; or

Amounts to sexual exploitation.

According to Cliffe Dekker Hoffmeyer: "The Cybercrimes Bill prescribes the sentences that offenders will be liable to on conviction of the cybercrimes created by the Bill, which entail fines and/or imprisonment ranging from five to 10 years, with aggravated offences attracting imprisonment of up to 15 years.

With the Cybercrimes Bill officially passed a lot of South Africans will breathe a sigh of relief especially women who often at times fell victims to such crimes and are harassed and made to feel ashamed.

Having these new laws in place will help protect the dignity of the people whose images and are shared without their constant or Data messages which incites damage to property or violence.

IOL TECH

Share this article: