South Africans will soon have to be much more careful about posting messages on WhatsApp and other social media platforms, as the Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill (“the Bill”), which is currently under consideration by the National Council of Provinces, attempts to police malicious messaging.

Cybercrime is on the rise and the Bill essentially aims to stop these acts, to keep people safe from criminals and terrorists, to improve the security of the country and to bring South Africa in line with other countries in terms of cyber legislation. The practical impact of the Bill on all organisations and individuals are significant as it impacts all of us who process data or use a computer.

Contravening the provisions contained in the Bill could lead to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years, or both a fine and imprisonment. The Bill fundamentally intends to curb the number of harmful messages, which by definition now covers a wide range of subject areas, on social media.

The Bill criminalises, amongst others, the following acts:

The Bill has come a long way since its first publication in 2015 and the overall effect of its provisions will be tested over time. Taking the implications of breaching a provision of the the Bill into account, users should think twice before pressing the ‘send’ button.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

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