The National Assembly last week, March 6, passed the Films and Publications Amendment Bill, which seeks to regulate the distribution of online content.
The bill, which is also known as the internet censorship bill, gives the Films and Publications Board (FPB) the powers to regulate online content, which includes content on social media, including Facebook and Twitter.
The bill has been transmitted to the National Council of Provinces to agree on it, and thereafter the president of the country will sign it into law.
Opposition parties labelled the bill as being unconstitutional, as it infringes on the right to privacy, and said it amounts to censorship and a threat to freedom of speech.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) launched a petition to throw out the internet censorship bill before it was passed. According to the party’s website, the petition was joined by 14 941 people.
BusinessTech reports that through the bill, the FPB will have the power to classify and potentially ban films, games and ‘other publications’.
Other publications are defined as:
- Any newspaper, book, periodical, pamphlet, poster or other printed matter;
- Any writing or typescript which has in any manner been duplicated;
- Any drawing, picture, illustration or painting;
- Any print, photograph, engraving or lithograph;
- Any record, magnetic tape, soundtrack or any other object in or on which sound has been recorded for reproduction;
- Computer software which is not a film;
- The cover or packaging of a film;
- Any figure, carving, statue or model; and
- Any message or communication, including a visual presentation, placed on any distributed network including, but not confined to, the internet.
Speaking on Radio 702 this morning, Attorney Nicholas Hall said the bill was intended to give the FPB the ability to place age restrictions on online content.
He said the FPB had targeted online media, video and film streaming services that do not fall under the jurisdiction of the broadcasting authority.
“Unfortunately what has happened due to some very sloppy drafting … it led to a mess. My current concerns with the bill are is that due to the definition of film and also due to the Films and Publications Board having this ability to classify what they call other publications … it has kind of raised this ridiculous situation where the Film and Publications Board potentially has the power to classify almost any content that is online,” Hall said.