We don't want to control the internet - Muthambi

Parliament – The Department of Communications is not seeking to control the internet, Minister Faith Muthambi said on Monday.

This as her department and the Film Publications Board prepared to present the films and publications amendment bill to Parliament on Tuesday.

The bill has been widely criticised for seeking to curb internet freedoms and will be in the spotlight at the Parliament’s communication committee meeting.

The bill, which was introduced to Parliament in November, seeks to amend the Films and Publications Act by closing the gaps in relation to online content regulation.

This was due to the emergence and avalanche of explicitly sexual and violent content brought in by the new media push and cyberspace that had no physical borders, Muthambi said in a statement on Monday.

Muthambi said they were looking to safeguard minors and vulnerable persons in the best way possible.

Topics in the bill include hate speech and propaganda for war and incitement of violence, as well as preventing children from watching pornographic content online.

"We are witnessing a failure of self-regulation in certain sectors of the industry. Also, state regulation has its limitations within the industry.

"Therefore, a much coordinated co-regulation model that provides for the involvement of industry and the government is required," Muthambi said.

She said such a model could need to have clearly defined roles, responsibilities and accountability levels.

She said government was looking at working with Internet Service Providers (ISP) and the industry to come up with the best regulatory framework.

The DA has raised concerns that the bill would affect free speech as enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

The DA's Phumzile Van Damme said the party would raise their objections in the committee, about things such as the imposition of fines or jail time for social media posts which incite violence or advocate hate speech.

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