Cybercrime Bill a step closer to being enacted after NCOP passes it

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A Bill criminalising the distribution of harmful messages and impose obligations to report cybercrimes could soon become law.
A Bill criminalising the distribution of harmful messages and impose obligations to report cybercrimes could soon become law.
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  • The National Council of Provinces has passed the much-anticipated Cybercrimes Bill during a virtual sitting on Wednesday.
  • The Bill imposes obligations to report cybercrimes and criminalises the distribution of harmful messages.
  • It will now be sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa for his accession.

A Bill criminalising the distribution of harmful messages and which imposes an obligation to report cybercrimes, could soon become law.

The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) passed the Cybercrimes Bill during a virtual sitting on Wednesday.

According to the Select Committee on Security and Justice, the Bill aims to create offences that have a bearing on cybercrime.

It proposed to criminalise the distribution of harmful data messages, provide for interim protection orders against offenders, regulate jurisdiction in respect of cybercrimes and regulate the powers to investigate cybercrimes.

It also makes provision for mutual assistance in respect of the investigation of cybercrime.

Committee chairperson Shahidabibi Shaikh said the Bill provides for the establishment of a designated point of contact.

It also provides for the proof of certain facts by sworn affidavits and imposes obligations to report cybercrimes.

ALSO READ | Cybercriminals change tack in SA, use more ransomware during lockdown

The Bill provides for capacity building and allows government to enter into agreements with foreign states to promote measures aimed at preventing cybercrime.

Such agreements would also enhance the mitigation and investigation of cybercrimes.

Issues

Shaikh said there were amendments to the Bill, most notably that of the tone of the Bill's language.

She said the committee agreed to alter the tone of the Bill to reflect non-binary language, as required by considerations of gender-neutrality, equality, dignity and identity.

Shaikh said the committee agreed to the restructuring of clause 16 of the Bill to specifically "reflect the impact of the considerations" in criminalising the disclosure of messages containing intimate images.

Shaikh said the police and National Prosecuting Authority have also admitted to training and capacity shortages.

These issues would be addressed, she said.

"It is worthwhile to note, that once the Bill is enacted, it will be the first non-binary Bill in South Africa. It also serves South Africa with a legislative framework to address cybercrimes which is of utmost importance given the evolving nature of cybercrimes. It will further protect women, children in the cyberspace arena and criminalise the actions of those seeking to exploit them," she said.

The Bill will now be sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa for his accession.

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