The Film and Publication Board (FPB) of South Africa has released draft guidelines on classifying films, games, and certain publications for public comment, which could see any videos posted online subjected to the same scrutiny as movies and TV shows.
According to law firm Webber Wentzel, the changes could have far-reaching consequences beyond existing and proposed legislation to regulate online harms.
“Adults and children are accessing vast amounts of data, often from unreliable, and in some cases harmful, sources,” the firm noted.
“Lawmakers from all around the world have been steadily introducing legislation to safeguard the public from these dangers.”
The EU’s proposed Digital Services Act and the UK’s proposed Online Safety Bill are two examples of laws aimed at regulating online harms.
The Protection of Personal Information Act and parts of the Cybercrimes Act have recently been passed in South Africa.
The latter makes it illegal to intentionally and unlawfully disclose harmful data messages, such as intimate images of another person, without their consent.
The current draft guidelines propose modifying key term definitions to correspond with those in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act and the Films and Publications Amendment Act.
Furthermore, the FPB proposes that distributors of a film, game, publication or online content specifically include people who stream content via the Internet, social media, or other electronic media.
“This appears to cover a person publishing a personal video on social media for non-commercial purposes,” Webber Wentzel explained.
That means a social media user would have to submit their work for classification, which would involve the addition of an age restriction to guide viewers on the nature of the content and if it is safe for children to consume.
The guidelines also recommend more stringent content classification criteria.
South Africans have 30 days from the date of publication of the guidelines, which is February 4, 2022, to submit comments on the changes.