South Africa: New child-protection rules kick in for internet providers
On 28 October 2022, the Film and Publication Board (FPB) published a notice in terms of the amended Films and Publications Act, which outlines the obligations of internet service providers (ISPs) in relation to child-oriented services, such as chat apps and content apps which are specifically targeted at children.
The notice requires ISPs providing child-oriented services to report to the FPB within 90 days on how they are meeting new obligations spelled out in section 24C of the amended Films and Publications Act, namely that they:
- Moderate child-oriented services and take reasonable steps to ensure the service is not used by any person for the commission of any offence against children;
- Display safety messages in chatrooms and advertisements that provide services for children;
- Enable children to report suspicious behaviour;
- Report any behaviour suggesting possible offences against children to the South African Police Services;
- Where possible, provide children, parents and caregivers with information about software or other tools which can be used to filter or block access to content services and contact services that may be harmful and unsuitable for children.
Failure to comply with these obligations is an offence carrying a penalty of a fine of up to ZAR 50,000, or six-months’ imprisonment.
The notice also requires any ISPs who have identified the use of their platforms to host or distribute child pornography, propaganda for war, or hate speech, to notify the FPB within 90 days of any steps they have taken to prevent the distribution of this content, and to report it to the South African Police. The amended Act makes it an offence for ISPs to fail to take reasonable steps to prevent access to child pornography or to report use of their platforms for child pornography to the police.
The FPB’s expanded regulatory powers over ISPs have drawn significant criticism from the industry over freedom of expression concerns.
The responses mandated in the notice can be submitted by email to cl[email protected].
- The FPB’s notice is available here.
- The Films and Publications Act, 1996, as amended to 2019, is available here.
Please note: The information contained in this note is for general guidance on matters of interest and does not constitute legal advice. For any enquiries, please contact us at [email protected].