Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT)

Can Internet use be Banned?

20 Oct 2015

2 min read

The Court of Magistrates has recently banned a man from using and accessing social media for a period of four years. The case involves a 22-year old man who used Facebook as a medium to express his ‘plan’ to kill the Prime Minister.

This Court has ruled that the man be placed under a treatment order to undergo psychiatric care, and also handed down a six month imprisonment term, suspended for four years.

This decision has been made in terms of Article 412C of the Criminal Code according to which, the Court of Magistrates is entitled to issue a physical protection order whereby a person would be prohibited from approaching another.  Therefore, in terms of this Article the Court has issued a so-called ‘online protection order’.

This landmark judgment has sparked discussion on what a person’s internet rights are and whether and to what extent a person can be restricted from surfing the internet.  This discussion has arisen as there is no regulation with respect to digital rights.  This matter was brought up by the Government in 2012 through a consultation exercise.  Furthermore, in 2014 a proposal for legislation which, stated that digital rights should be constitutionally enforceable was brought forward by the Opposition.

The importance of digital rights has been recognised by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) too.

The ECJ ruled that the Safe Harbour Agreement between the EU and US which, provides guidance for US firms on how to protect personal data of EU citizens is invalid, as the transfer of such data has been in breach of the fundamental right to data protection.

The ruling came about after revelations were made, as to how the US National Security Agency was obtaining access to data held by internet serves.

From the above it is evident that the regulation of digital rights is a pressing matter which, needs to be addressed.  By doing so individuals will be made aware as to what they can and can’t do on the internet.

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