SAHRC concerned about Facebook, Twitter

2011-08-30 07:25
Cape Town - The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) expressed concern about the unregulated nature of communication activity on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and others.

Commission chair Lawrence Mushwana said in a statement the current environment where there were no regulatory mechanisms to fully subject, among others, user-registration to the relevant legislative provisions, had resulted in users of these sites engaging in acts of hate speech or other human rights violations.

It was an established fact that some of the users used fictitious personal details to create profiles and this made them untraceable in cases when they needed to be located to account for their conduct.

Mushwana's concern followed the Hawks' announcement that they had launched an investigation after the Sunday Times published a Facebook image of a "white man with a rifle posing over what appears to be a lifeless body of a black child like a hunter celebrating his kill".

The Hawks indicated they were searching for the person or persons responsible for the photo, whoever created the user-profile, and for those "who had seen the photograph but never reported it to the relevant authorities".

The commission had had the experience of being unable to proceed in resolving complaints against the conduct of certain individuals on these sites as a result of their untraceability and had to eventually close the complaint files.

Even though the commission had previously engaged with experts to seek solutions on this problem, it believed this was not just a local problem, but an international one that required global discussions and solutions.

Mushwana said even though there was no doubt that social networking sites played an important role in promoting the right of freedom of expression it was clear that practical ways should be found to ensure they were used appropriately.
- SAPA
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