Rethink of online censorship plans mooted - TechCentral

Rethink of online censorship plans mooted

Image: Isaac Mao

Image: Isaac Mao

Online content in South Africa could be regulated by the Press Council (PCSA) rather than the Film and Publication Board (FPB), according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The FPB earlier this year published draft regulations that would require pre-classification of any “film, game or certain publication” on the Internet, but those terms came under criticism for being too wide ranging.

Instead, on Monday, the FPB, the PCSA, the South African National Editors’ Forum and the Interactive Advertising Bureau of South Africa (IAB) met to discuss the implications of the regulations and resolved to present a revised press code.

But the new policy is not yet final as there is ongoing discussion with stakeholders.

“We hope it’s set in stone. The FPB chair has said it in two meetings now,” said Andrew Allison, head of the regulatory affairs for the IAB.

The revised press code is making its way through a public participation process that could see the rules being eventually implemented.

The FPB, though, has not officially abandoned its draft policy to classify online content in South Africa, Allison said.

“It doesn’t mean that they’ve backed down. What they’re doing is consulting with a wide range of stakeholders. They’re gathering perspectives from different industry bodies,” Allison said.

The revised code is expected to differentiate from the FPB proposals in that PCSA members will be regulated for print and online content.

The PCSA has been working closely with the IAB to ensure that complaints relating to digital content are dealt with.

The IAB said the FPB has further indicated that it would not seek to regulate content published by the online divisions of print publishers and by online-only publications.

The FPB sparked controversy in 2012 when it classified artist Brett Murray’s painting The Spear, which depicted President Jacob Zuma with exposed genitals, as “16N”.

The classification prevented a number of outlets from publishing the art work, triggering accusations that the FPB was acting under government pressure.

Allison said that the IAB will continue to lobby the FPB over its regulations along with other stakeholders.

“Our position is that the FPB’s draft online regulation policy is flawed and we will be making written submissions by next Wednesday, 15 July around the policy in its current form.”  — Fin24

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