Leisurely glancing through Facebook when you are faced with a crude post, comment or the like that makes your blood boil…? Whether it be racist, sexist or downright in violation of another’s dignity…What can, and should you do? Write a scathing response? Perhaps not, the ever-evolving law is here to criminalise and impose consequences for such actions.

Parliament’s Justice Committee recently passed the Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill (the Bill) in order to address the ever-increasing challenges associated with cyber space communication. This was a necessary step for South African law as social media plays a pivotal role in communication in this day and age.

The Bill primarily seeks to criminalise the theft and interference of data but also deals with malicious electronic communications.

The Bill criminalises the activities of any person who broadcasts a data message to a specific person or group or to the public with the intention to incite causing damage to property or violence against a person or group of persons.

The Bill further compels cellular companies and banking institutions to assist in investigations allowing government to access any pertinent private information stored on a person’s device as evidence. This includes private messages.

As an extension of the above, the Bill makes it an offence to distribute data messages containing an intimate image of a person without their consent. The Bill describes an ‘intimate image’ as both real and simulated messages which show the person as nude or display his or her private areas. This includes instances where the person is identifiable through descriptions in the message or from other information displayed as a data message.

Finally, the Bill ultimately seeks to create a framework in which social media users are protected by legislation in order to ensure people’s dignity is not violated via cyber space communication.

JIVIKA DOMUN works in the Litigation Department and is a Candidate Attorney at Alan Levy Attorneys Notaries and Conveyancers.

Jivika can be contacted on enquiries@alattorneys.co.za or 011 326 8050.