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corporate commercial

corporate commercial | 31 Mar 2020
BY Rakhee Dullabh

South Africa: beware of what you post online about COVID-19

The regulations issued by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, on Wednesday, 18 March 2020, make it an offence for people to publish fake news or disinformation about the coronavirus (COVID-19) online.

The regulations state that:

Any person who publishes any statement, through any medium, including social media, with the intention to deceive any other person about —

(a) COVID-19;

(b) COVID-19 infection status of any person; or

(c) any measure taken by the Government to address COVID-19,

commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months, or both such fine and imprisonment.”

The government is taking this seriously, and the Minister of Home Affairs indicated that he intends laying a charge against people accused of spreading fake news about COVID-19 in South Africa with three people already being identified in relation to the offence.

It is important to note that in order for a person to be guilty of the offence, they must have intention to deceive. Intention in law can mean dolus directus (direct intention), dolus indirectus (indirect intention), or dolus eventualis (which means that a person foresaw the possibility that the false information published may deceive another person but continued regardless). This means that even if you didn’t create the post, you may be liable for the offence if you continued to spread the misinformation such as reposting it or sharing/forwarding it online or via social media.

Therefore, take caution when spreading information about COVID-19 by following these tips:

  • always verify the source of the information. Regulations and guidelines regarding COVID-19 that have been circulated recently may not be from the territory that you are situated in and may be from other countries; and
  • check reputable information sources such government websites if you are looking for information.

Under the Electronic Communications, Postal and Broadcasting Directions No. 43164 issued by Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, telecommunication service providers are required to remove fake news related to COVID-19 from their platforms immediately after being identified as such. Telecommunication service providers include internet service providers, over the top providers and electronic communication services licensees.

Keep in mind that fake news can spread faster than the virus!

Reviewed by Ridwaan Boda, head of ENSafrica’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications department.

Rakhee Dullabh

Corporate Commercial | Senior Associate

rdullabh@ENSafrica.com

+27 82 509 6565

Lucinda Botes

Corporate Commercial | Candidate Attorney

lbotes@ENSafrica.com

+27 79 699 0344

COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus, is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 11 March 2020. The disease has since been reported in over 190 countries.

No information provided herein may in any way be construed as legal advice from ENSafrica and/or any of its personnel. Professional advice must be sought from ENSafrica before any action is taken based on the information provided herein, and consent must be obtained from ENSafrica before the information provided herein is reproduced in any way. ENSafrica disclaims any responsibility for positions taken without due consultation and/or information reproduced without due consent, and no person shall have any claim of any nature whatsoever arising out of, or in connection with, the information provided herein against ENSafrica and/or any of its personnel. Any values, such as currency (and their indicators), and/or dates provided herein are indicative and for information purposes only, and ENSafrica does not warrant the correctness, completeness or accuracy of the information provided herein in any way.