The Draft Online Regulation Policy proposed by the Film and Publication Board (FPB) will result in local websites moving overseas, costing the country jobs, skills, and money.
The FPB published its Draft Online Regulation Policy in the Government Gazette of 4 March 2015 – the policy was then approved by Cabinet in August 2015.
The draft policy has been widely criticised for trying to censor the Internet, and for trampling on South African’s constitutional right to freedom of expression.
FPB CEO Thamba Wakashe argued that the bill is needed to fight undesirable content – which includes racism, child pornography, and bullying.
However, critics argue that the new policy will not only fail, it will cost South Africa jobs, money, and tax revenue.
Jeremy Malcolm, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s senior global policy analyst, told Carte Blanche the proposed policy will not be effective at removing access to undesirable content.
He said people will always find a way to gain access to content which has been prohibited, and that the bill may clamp down on legitimate content.
South African online businesses will move overseas
Malcolm said what will definitely happen is that local online businesses will go overseas to host their websites.
“This has been seen in other countries around the world when tougher censorship legislation is introduced,” he said.
He added that the jobs from these businesses also went overseas, and the affected country then had no power over the websites.
“The same thing will happen in South Africa – there are many countries which are friendlier towards freedom of speech and offer higher levels of protection to Internet companies,” said Malcolm.
He said South African online entrepreneurs, innovators, and businesses will simply move to countries where they experience more protection.