Revenge-porn law goes too far, say activists

A Law that is meant to criminalise revenge porn has been criticised for being unconstitutional and limiting freedom of expression.

This week parliament's portfolio committe on communication heard submissions on the proposed Film and Publications Bill, which seeks to regulate online content and prevent the phenomenon of revenge porn.

The DA's Phumzile van Damme says that while the bill does well to tighten definitions around child pornography, and to outlaw revenge porn, the rest of the Bill should be thrown out.

"In its current form, it gives government wide-sweeping powers to censor content on the internet, is unworkable, unaffordable, vague and contains several unconstitutional provisions," she said.

Many of the submissions made on the bill have focused on problematic areas, including:

l The vagueness of definitions: among them the definition of a "digital film" so wide- ranging that it would include any user-generated content uploaded to the internet, which would require ordinary South Africans using social media to register as a film distributor and pay a fee.

This issue is raised in submissions by the Right2Know campaign as well as the National Association of Broadcasters.

In its written submission, the Internet Service Providers' Association of South Africa points out that in a single minute 2.78 million videos are watched on Youtube globally, over 38000 Instagram images and videos are uploaded and over 1 million short videos watched on Vine, making user generated content incredibly difficult to regulate and monitor.

l The Bill is unconstitutional because it requires pre-classification which is viewed as censorship. Right2Know says in its submission: "The requirement to register with the Film and Publications Board and to pre-classify (i.e. demanding that publishers first withhold content to ensure it meets the Board's standards) is a form of censorship. It restrains the free flow of information and violates free expression and the right to impart and receive information. These are constitutionally enshrined rights."

l It threatens the right to privacy: The Bill requires that all providers of X-rated adult content keep a register of the name, address and verifiable age of those who access it. "This information could easily fall into the wrong hands, and adults should have the right to remain anonymous when it comes to legitimate sexual expression," Right2Know said.

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