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    March 6, 2017

    Minister of State Security, David Mahlobo, weighs in on regulating social media in South Africa

    David Mahlobo

    Minister of State Security David Mahlobo has offered new comments that indicate that the regulation of social media is being considered in South Africa.

    South African Minister of State Security, David Mahlobo, has offered new comments indicating that government is actively investigating regulation south media platforms – such as Facebook – in South Africa.

    Speaking on Sunday the 5th of March at a Q&A session with journalists following a briefing by the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster, Mahlobo weighed in on the prevalence of fake news on social media.

    Read: South African government allocates R2.5 billion for a national broadband network

    Citing that the situation was not unique to South Africa, Mahlobo offered that “”There is a lot of peddling that is going on (in social media)… We are contemplating to regulate the space. Even the best democracies that are revered, they regulate the space…Most of our challenges are coming from that space. We will discuss how we will regulate it.”

    In a follow-up question, Mahlobo offered that regulating social media could be seen as “interfering with human rights” and hence would not be considered without referring to various forums.

    Murray Hunter, spokesperson for the Right2Know Campaign, cited that the regulation of social media in South Africa would be a threat to media freedom.

    Speaking to Times LIVE, Hunter cited that “This is what we have seen happening in Zimbabwe. This is what we have seen happening in Cameroon, Egypt and other areas. When governments lose control of their political powers, they clamp down on social media.”

    Hunter elaborated that the Justice Department’s proposed Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill would deal with some of the issues State Security minister David Mahlobo raised, before quipping that  “When we add statements that Mahlobo has made in the past, one wonders whether the minister of state security is becoming a threat to national security… South Africa’s populace will push hard against this proposal. The minister has no role. He should keep off social media.”

    It is unclear how government would, at any fundamental level, proceed to regulate social media use in South Africa. A total ban on particular services, for example, could prevent a vast majority of South Africans from accessing platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter, or Facebook.

    Expansions to pieces of proposed legislation such as the draft Hate Speech Bill could effectively limit freedom of speech and enable aggrieved parties to legally challenge persons on social media, though it is unclear as to how the state could proactively police the use of such services.

    Read: Facebook’s user base soars in South Africa, while Twitter faces slowing growth

    What are your thoughts? Should government be allowed to regulate social media in South Africa? Be sure to let us know your opinion in the comments below!

    Follow Bryan Smith on Twitter: @bryansmithSA

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