Monitoring or regulating social media will have a negative impact on freedom of expression and the free press, resulting in censorship by the government.
The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) said a major concern is the inability of media outlets to freely release verified news without the stories being classified as fake news by government and ultimately taken down.
“What would be the checks and balances?” FXI director Tusi Fokane asked.
The FXI proposed strengthening the existing self-regulatory mechanisms, rather than introducing statutory regulation.
“Trying to monitor social media sites will affect citizens’ and users’ rights to privacy and right to freedom of expression and may lead to censorship.
“We have seen examples of internet shutdowns by repressive governments, particularly in the lead up to elections,” Fokane said.
“No doubt any attempts to muzzle the media and social media users will lead to a violation of the right to freedom of expression. This would also extend to the right of access to information.”
It would also be impractical for government to monitor or invade social media accounts in trying to curb fake news without invading the right to privacy.
“We have seen various attempts by the SA government to monitor the flow of information online. We have also seen how the proposed Hate Speech Bill attempts to criminalise speech online.
Fokane said less restrictive means in tackling the rise of fake news would include more public education on social media.