South Africa just introduced new laws regarding sending intimate images “nudes” on WhatsApp after the Parliament passed the Cybercrimes Bill a few days ago.
The new laws drafted in the Cybercrimes bill also include a bunch of other laws targeted at sending other types of messages across media platforms. This Bill was passed by Parliament on 2 December and is just awaiting the President’s signature.
The Bill aims to criminalize the distribution of data messages which are harmful and to crack down on cybercrime in South Africa. It also imposes obligations on financial services providers as well as Telcos in the investigation of Cybercrimes.
The new Cybercrimes Bill which has gone through many changes since 2017 states that any person who discloses a data message to a single person, group of persons or the public with the intention to incite damage or violence is guilty of an offense.
The same applies to messages which threaten violence towards a single person, group of people, or their property.
The Cybercrimes Bill doesn’t only target WhatsApp private messages but also Facebook posts, Tweets, and messages as well as private WhatsApp messages sent within a group.
So How do messages get to be regarded as a threat?
A reasonable person test will be done which states that a message will be considered malicious if a reasonable person would perceive the data message as a threat.
The bill also specifically addresses the sending of intimate images over any electronic communications platform without the subject’s consent, classifying this as an offense.
This is true if the person is identified as being displayed in the image, if they are described as being displayed in the image but cannot be identified, and if they are identified from other information as being displayed in the image.
An “intimate image” is defined as the depiction of a person (real or simulated) in which they are nude, their genital organs or anal region are exposed, or if they are a female person, transgender person, or intersex person, their breasts are displayed.
The definition also extends to images in which the covered regions listed above are exposed in the image.
What this Bill Means for South Africans and anyone residing in South Africa.
The wording of the new bill means that even if you are not the creator of an intimate image or video sent without the subject’s consent, you are committing an offense if you forward it.
This regulation also applies to photoshopped images and deep fakes, as well as pictures or videos which do not show the subject’s face but in which their identity is described.
The same is true of threats to people and property sent over WhatsApp, social media, email, or any other electronic communication.
Therefore, if you receive an intimate image, video, or similar media over WhatsApp, or any other platform, and forward it to others without the consent of the person identified in the media, you will be guilty of an offense.
This is true whether you created the image or not, and whether or not you know the person identified in the image or video.
Forwarding a message which contains a reasonable threat to people or their property is also an offense under the bill, regardless of the source of the message.