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Cyber bullying must be dealt with thoroughly

Publishing Date : 10 October, 2017

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Government is bringing a Cybercrime law this November, and primarily it will deal with the abuse meted on individuals through social media. The law intends to criminalise the sharing of false information, intimate pictures of people without consent among other things.

While there could be an argument shaped along the lines of freedom of expression, the hurt that comes with social media’s reckless exposes leaves many without a choice but to support Minister Shaw Kgathi’s intervention. It is no secret that technology has become a vital part of our life and as we get more comfortable with it, we allow it to overrun our personal lives too. We share and store information from our credit card number to social website passwords never thinking about the fact that what if the information shared is abused. Social media has also become a license for some to undermine the integrity of others. It has become an abuse avenue where anything can be said against a person without cognizance of the consequences.

Like the minister points out, distasteful pictures of accident scenes always flood social media even before the next of kin of those involved in the said accidents are notified. This behavior is said to have brought so much pain to some families. It is high time this insensitivity is dealt with.  We know that in a world where governments are putting surveillance over people and organisations and where internet has become a hub of international corporate giants with their own set of privacy safeguards and standards, the subject of privacy becomes dubious in the mind of a citizen because you never know that whether you are being watched or not. Therefore there is need for legal instruments to protect this privacy which is not private anymore.

We are of the view that victims need ways in which they can address their attackers through the legal system, both civilly and criminally. It must be noted that currently there sophisticated legal routes such as filing law suits against perpetrators, but these are costly and invasive, and combined with a lack of education and precedent, these channels don’t always offer the justice people are seeking. Again, it is very unlikely that one could recover their dignity through a law suit. There is need for prior restraint.

While the law is notoriously slow to adapt to technology, we are confident that the law can be used as a tool to stop this behavior. Without any form of restraint keyboard enthusiasts can go wild and a lot of lives could be destroyed. We all know that numerous websites have become a platform for a new form of online abuse that is bringing out the uglier side of relationships. Posting explicit pictures or videos of an ex-lover or spouse has become the new rage to let off steam and show hatred. This is pure harassment. We learn that other menaces through which private confidential content becomes public are hacking, copyright infringement, child pornography and child grooming. These must all be dealt with. It is encouraging that members of Parliament are clear on their support for a balanced Cyber law.

We contend that the law must deal thoroughly with the transmission of obscene content in any form. Governments across the globe have reacted aggressively to cyber-crime, Botswana should do the same to avoid a situation where a lot of people will be in harm’s way.
“In actuality, victims of cyberbullying can suffer emotionally, socially, behaviorally, and academically. Victims of cyberbullying can become depressed, develop eating disorders, stop hanging out with friends, and lose interest in school. Cyberbullying sometimes occurs in addition to other forms of victimization. Someone may also be experiencing physical bullying, intimate partner violence, harassment, or stalking.”

On the other hand, Minister Kgathi should be aware that Government will have to invest extensively on cyber forensic training and investigation labs for training of law enforcement and also for judiciary. While there are arguments against putting restraint on publishing explicit intimate stuff as it transgresses the fundamental right of freedom, there are two lurking questions in the background to all this, which is why people go to such websites and ogle at these naked images and why do people post this online to cause such harm to others. We must deal with cyber bullying thoroughly.



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