South Africa 11.3.2017 06:30 pm

Hands off social media, says R2K campaign

Social media stock image. Picture: Berea Mail

Social media stock image. Picture: Berea Mail

The independent courts, a vibrant civil society and critical media are essential to the democratic process, says the campaign.

The Right 2 Know (R2K) campaign says Minister of State Security David Mahlobo’s proposal to “regulate” social media is a clear move by government to try clamp down on freedom of expression and increase their powers to censor the internet, reports the Berea Mail.

Speaking at the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism’s panel discussion on fake news, the Security Minister had said South Africa is “under siege” from some foreign force that is somehow using the courts, civil society and the media to cause instability.”

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A statement released by the R2K campaign said: “Regulation of social media already exists: platforms like Twitter and Facebook have added self-regulation measures, to empower users to take action against online harassment and cut down on the spread of fake news and propaganda.

“These systems are flawed and users need to be empowered to engage with content critically and decide for themselves whether to trust the content they access.Giving State Security any role in “regulation” is a sure path to internet censorship.”

The campaign also called for the minister’s views to be addressed and says that the independent courts, a vibrant civil society and critical media are essential to the democratic process, especially when state entities’ fail to act with integrity, transparency or accountability.

“It is the executive’s paranoia and abuse of power that undermines democracy and creates instability. R2K has already raised concerns that South Africa’s state-security structures have abused their surveillance powers and shown a disregard for democratic process.

“Mahlobo’s ‘regime change’ mantra is part of a recycled narrative where members of the security cluster have tried to paint their critics as ‘threats’ that must be targeted. It comes on the back of a range of existing, deeply problematic censorship policies, including the Film & Publication Board’s internet censorship regulations, the draft Hate Speech Bill, and the new Cybercrimes Bill, which would ‘hand the keys of the internet’ to David Mahlobo,” read the statement.

Caxton News Service

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