The Cybercrimes Bill Gets Signed into Law

image of computer

The Cybercrimes Bill, which criminalises the sending of certain harmful messages via social channels and online platforms, was signed into law by president Cyril Ramaphosa on 26 May 2021. This Bill aims to align South Africa’s cyber security laws with similar international standards. 

What is a Cybercrime?

According to the online encyclopedia Britannica, a cybercrime refers to the “use of a computer as an instrument to further illegal ends, such as committing fraud, trafficking in child pornography and intellectual property, stealing identities, or violating privacy.”

What is the role of the Cybercrimes Bill?

According to the Cybercrimes Act 19 of 2020, the Cybercrimes Bill creates offences for, imposes penalties, and criminalises the disclosure of data messages which are harmful. These include:

  • Messages that incite damage to property or violence;
  • Messages that threaten people with damage to property or violence; and
  • Messages that unlawfully contain an intimate image.

Other offences included in the Act include: 

  • Cyber fraud;
  • Forgery;
  • Extortion and theft of incorporeal property;
  • The unlawful and intentional access of a computer system or computer data storage medium; and
  • The unlawful interception of, or interference with data.

What are the repercussions of a cybercrime offence?

Anyone convicted of an offence under the Cybercrimes Act is liable to a fine or imprisonment for a period of up to 15 years. In some cases, depending on the severity of the offence, both a fine and imprisonment may be enforced.

More than this, the Cybercrimes Act imposes a duty on electronic communications service providers and financial institutions to report certain offences within 72 hours. Failure to do so could lead to a fine of up to R50 000.

If you would like to know more about the Cybercrime Bill and what it means for you, don’t hestitate to contact us!