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Type carefully! These 3 kinds of messages could land you with a fine or jail time

03 June 2021 - 11:00 By unathi nkanjeni
The Cyber Crimes Bill has been signed into law.
The Cyber Crimes Bill has been signed into law.
Image: Brent Lewin

The Cyber Crimes Bill, which seeks to provide for an interim protection order, has now been signed into law.

The bill was signed by President Cyril Ramaphosa and is now an act of parliament.

The bill was first introduced in 2017 and in 2018 it was passed by the National Assembly and moved on to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence.

In 2020, it was finalised and eventually reached the president to be signed into law.

Among other things, the bill criminalises the distribution of “harmful” data messages on  social media apps.

Messages that could now land the offender with a fine or even see them serve jail time, include:

  • Those that incite violence or damage to property;
  • Any message that threatens people with violence or damage to property;
  • And messages that contain intimate images sent without the subject’s consent.

According to the bill, any person who violates the act is liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 15 years, or to both.

Werksmans Attorneys welcomed the bill, saying it would bring SA's cybersecurity laws into line with the rest of the world.

Ahmore Burger-Smidt, director and head of data-privacy practice at the firm, explained that unlawful and intentional access of a computer system or computer data storage medium is also considered an offence, along with the unlawful interception of, or interference, with data.

“This creates a broad ambit for the application of the Cyber Crimes Act, which defines ‘data’ as electronic representations of information in any form,” said Burger-Smidt 

“There is no doubt that the Cyber Crimes Act will be of particular importance to electronic communications service providers and financial institutes, as it imposes obligations upon them to assist in the investigation of cyber crimes; for example, by furnishing a court with certain particulars, which may involve the handing over of data or even hardware on application.”

According to Burger-Smidt, there is also a duty on electronic communications service providers and financial institutions to report, without undue delay and where feasible, cyber offences within 72 hours of becoming aware of them.

She said failure to do so may lead to a fine not exceeding R50,000.