Internet, social media content regulations coming in SA

The Film and Publication Board (FPB) is planning to “establish an efficient and effective online and new media content regulatory strategy for the country”.

According to the FPB’s strategic plan for 2014 to 2018, online content regulation is a new strategic initiative identified in its 2012 strategic review process.

The need for online content regulation, the FPB said, is because the Internet is becoming one of the most popular media distribution platforms in the country.

The FPB said that it is investigating “innovative mechanisms” that could be used in regulating the Internet in South Africa.

“The programme will entail setting up of the infrastructure necessary for effective regulation of the Internet,” the FPB said.

The FPB has two main online and mobile content regulation strategic objectives:

  • Development and implementation of a content regulation framework and strategy that ensures 100% classification and labelling of classifiable content distributed on online, mobile and related platforms, by 2017
  • To form and maintain national and international partnerships with key stakeholders, other regulators and law enforcement agencies for improved regulation of content distributed through online, mobile and related platforms

Internet content regulation reality in South Africa

Ellipsis Regulatory Solutions CEO Dominic Cull said that industry players and consumers should become aware that online content regulation in South Africa may be here soon.

He said, at ConvergeSA 2014, that the FPB, which now sits within the “new” Department of Communications, is already positioning itself as an online content regulator in South Africa.

Cull said that an amendment in 2004 to the Film and Publications Act of 1996 meant that all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) were required to register with the FPB. A further amendment in 2009 created a statutory offence for failing to register, with the possibility of imprisonment as a sanction.

“Today the latest Film and Publications Regulations say that you are prohibited from operating as an ISP unless you are registered with the FPB, have provided a tax clearance certificate and a statement detailing which measures you take to protect children from exposure to ‘pornography and child pornography’, given that you provide Internet access,” said Cull.

Regulations published in March 2014 appear to have expanded the requirements for registration with the FPB to include mobile content providers and online content providers.

“It is by no means clear who is required to register and the FPB should move quickly to clarify its position in this regard,” added Cull.

Online distributors and large international online platforms are also required to register with the FPB as “online distributors”, at a fee of up to R750,000 per year (determined “at the discretion of the executive committee” of the FPB).

Online and Mobile Content Regulation

The FSB’s Online and Mobile Content Regulation programmes include the following.

FPB online content regulation plan
FPB online content regulation plan

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Internet, social media content regulations coming in SA