I am submitting the text below as public comment on South Africa's Draft Online Regulation Policy. Read more at the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Deep Links blog and at the Right2Know Campaign's website.
This is the first time I
am submitting comment to draft law. Normally I consider myself too
unimportant and too uninvolved in lawmaking for my commenting on draft
law to be a good use of my time. But this draft policy is simply so bad
that I feel compelled to comment, lest the FPB underestimate how
offensive this draft is, by even one person's response.
stake in this matter is both as an occasional content creator, and as
an ordinary South African who feels offended at the idea of a supposed
constitutional democracy's government insisting on inserting itself into
every transaction between consenting humans (adult or not), where it is
not wanted. Wherever government impinges on my life, I have stress, and
by impinging itself onto every instance of sharing a creative work, it
maximizes the harm its regulative efforts do.
cannot respond to every element of the draft which I find problematic.
There is simply too much. In almost every sentence I find an offensively
obstructionist, parochial and regressive provision. This is the year
2015, and the draft harks back to PW Botha's 1986 government. It too
seemed to have the view that every publication which is not explicitly
allowed, must be forbidden (or at least classified).
I want the FPB to do instead (although cynically I cannot expect this
to occur) would be to repeal its empowering laws and then disband
itself. The few shreds of law that I would like to see remain can easily
be absorbed into other ministries' laws - but as for the vast bulk of
it, I wish it were simply gone.
The first thing the FPB
should, in my opinion, do is to toss the Draft Online Regulation Policy
in the metaphorical bin where it belongs, and start again. It might
start again by amending the Film and Publications Act. Ideally by
replacing 90%+ of its content with blank space. Any concerns of
platform-neutrality are immediately addressed if the FPB had the
commitment to democratic principles to give up on its (false) ideal of
classifying every publication. Mandatory classification of publications
is a Soviet bureaucrat's lifeblood, not the sort of stuff that a modern
democracy is made of.
The FPB must choose. It must
choose whether it wishes to be an embarrassment to South Africa, Africa,
and humanity as a whole, or if it wants to be a respected entity in a
respected democracy. Sticking to this draft policy is the former, and
abandoning it and trying again is a step in the direction of the latter. It must choose between regulatory capture, and meaningful civil liberty.