The president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa has signed the Cybercrimes Act into law on Tuesday, 01 June. The laws criminalize the sending of some type of detrimental messages in the country.
As stated by the Cybercrimes Act, these detrimental messages constitutes to the following;
• Incite damage to property or violence
• Threaten people with damage to property or violence
• Unlawfully contain an intimate image
Ahmore Burger-Smith, director and head of data privacy practice explained that the Cybercrimes Act is aimed at bringing South African’s cybercrime laws in line with the rest of the world. Smith added that “the Act also includes definitions for cyber fraud, forgery, extortion and theft of incorporeal property,” smith explained.
Smith also clarified that the unlawful and intentional access of computer systems or data storage medium is also considered an offence, along with the unlawful interception or interference with data. Moreover the Act also places various obligations on companies such as network operators, internet service providers and financial institutions.
The Cybercrimes Act further states that electronic communications service providers and financial institutions must report without delay and where feasible cyber offences within 72 hours of becoming aware of them. Failure to do so may lead to a fine of R50 000. Smith elaborated that these companies must provide information that may help the police in its investigations, and may also be required to hand over hardware when an application is made to the court.
The Act further describes an intimate image as both real or simulated, which reveals the person as nude, or display his/her genital organs or anal region. It further adds that the message is an offence if the person is female, transgender or intersex if their covered breasts or genitals are displayed in a manner that violates or offends their sexual integrity or dignity. Even if the person is not identifiable in the image, this offence applies if the message identifies the person in the text or in other information contained in the message.
Penalties for such messages include imprisonment for up to three years and/or a fine.