More than 14 000 people have signed an online petition launched on Thursday against the Film and Publication Board’s (FPB’s) draft online regulations.
“A new set of regulations threatens the very essence of our Internet freedom. They want to police and crack down on our digital democracy — but we are thousands of South Africans getting this e-mail and we have the power to bring down their barricades,” Avaaz said in an e-mail sent to its members.
Avaaz was launched in 2007 as an online mechanism to organise citizens around the world to take action on pressing global, regional and national issues.
It has more than 41m members worldwide in 194 countries.
“If the Film and Publication Board’s new Internet regulations are implemented, they’d have the right to review and classify almost every blog, video, and personal website — even Avaaz campaigns like this one. Think apartheid-era censorship, reloaded and super-charged for an all-out assault on our digital freedoms.”
Avaaz said public consultations end this week, and the FPB was on the back foot because their regulations had been so “widely ridiculed”.
“A massive viral response could finally pull the plug on these dangerous regulations. Let’s race to 30 000 names to defend our Internet and storm the consultations with a giant, defiant ‘NO!’.”
Avaaz said practically speaking, it would be almost impossible for these rules to be enforced all the time, but they could be used to selectively block specific types of information, control what is made public, and “even criminalise” certain users.
“In addition, people wanting to publish online would have to buy a costly subscription, limiting who can post on the web and what information we see,” the campaign website said.
“The FPB says its regulations are designed to protect children and citizens from harmful content. But while protection is important, there are already laws designed to do that — these new rules would only serve to stifle expression and empower those who’d do anything to increase secrecy in our country.”
By late Thursday afternoon, 14 657 people had signed the petition.
Civil society watchdog Right2Know has said the proposed move by the FPB is a form of censorship. — News24