State contemplates regulating social media
The government is contemplating regulating social media to counter "false narratives" and the spread of fake news, said State Security Minister David Mahlobo.
Mahlobo, who was part of a press briefing given by the ministers of justice, crime prevention and security cluster in Pretoria, hinted at the government's plans yesterday.
He was responding to a question on what intelligence services were doing to deal with misleading information on social media.
Mahlobo said social media, instead of providing "endless opportunities" for personal and business interaction, had become host to negative and untrue opinions.
"There is a lot of peddling that is going on [in social media]," said Mahlobo, adding that the government was contemplating regulating the medium.
"Even the best democracies that are revered, [are] regulating [social media]. Most of our challenges are coming from that space. We will discuss how we will regulate it."
Murray Hunter, spokesman for the Right2Know Campaign, said although the spread of false information and fake news online was worrying, it would be a huge threat to media freedom if the state regulated the social media space.
"This is what we have seen happening in Zimbabwe. This is what we have seen happening in Cameroon, Egypt and other areas. When governments lose control of their political powers, they clamp down on social media."
Hunter said there was a Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill, proposed by the justice department, which dealt with some of the issues raised by Mahlobo.
"When we add statements that Mahlobo has made in the past, one wonders whether the minister of state security is becoming a threat to national security.
"South Africa's populace will push hard against this proposal. The minister has no role. He should keep off social media."
Hunter said the government should instead fix major failings, such as corruption and the payment of social grants.