The Right2Know Campaign has issued a statement in response to the South African Film & Publication Board’s (FPB) recent draft policy proposing to regulate online content in the country, rejecting the plan as “unnecessary censorship” and “unconstitutional”.
The policy claims that regulation of online content is the prerogative of the FPB, as a purported means of protecting children from “exposure to disturbing and harmful material and from premature exposure to adult material”.
Although the FPB has previously been responsible only for the local classification of movies, the policy claims that “media convergence” – that is, the availability of media online – has now “fundamentally transformed the way media content is distributed and consumed”, and that apparently grants them authority over stuff on the internet too.
According to the Right2Know Campaign, though, the policy’s “vague language and open-ended statements” are vulnerable to exploitation.
“The new regulations apply to an absurdly broad range of content that is not limited to that which is published online. It also suggests that the target of this regulation is not just major distributors but also individuals. In terms of the wording of the document, everything published on the Internet – including blogs, personal websites and Facebook pages – could be subjected to classification from the FPB.
“According to the document, anyone wishing to publish or distribute content will have to first apply for a digital publisher’s online distribution agreement with the FPB, which will require a subscription fee. Once paid, the publisher would have to submit the content to the FPB for classification prior to publishing. This effectively is a specific form of pre-publication censorship, which is not acceptable.”
The statement adds that “the time spent on the pre-classification of content would undermine one of the most valuable traits of the internet – its immediacy.”
There’s already a #HandsOffOurInternet hashtag trending on Twitter if you want to get involved, but if the Ministry of Love comes knocking on your door, deny everything and blame somebody else. WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH, and I’ll take my gin ration with a slice of lemon, please.
Tarryn is writing for IGN Africa until interstellar space travel is invented and she can pursue new career opportunities as a bounty hunter.