Zimbabwe : WhatsApp abusers face 10 years in jail

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INDIVIDUALS and companies that will abuse social media to threaten, intimidate, harass, incite people to cause violence and transmit nude and intimate pictures will be jailed for between five and 10 years

According to an updated draft Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Bill, 2017, a number of messages that people readily share on social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Twitter will soon be classified as criminal.

The Bill, if passed into an Act, noted that transmission of data messages inciting violence or damage to property will now attract up to five years while those caught producing racist and xenophobic material will be locked for up to 10 years.

“Any person who unlawfully by means of a computer or information system makes available, transmits, broadcasts or distributes a data message to any person, group of persons or to the public with intent to incite such persons to commit acts of violence against any person or persons or to cause damage to any property shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level ten or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or to both such fine and such imprisonment,” read the Bill.

The same punishment, according to Part IV of the Bill, will apply to those who will be found on the wrong side of the law sending threatening messages, practice cyber bullying and transmit false data message intending to cause harm.

The Bill describes cyber bullying and practices as any material sent with an intention to coerce, intimidate, harass, threaten, bully or cause substantial emotional distress, or to degrade, humiliate or demean the person of another or to encourage a person to harm himself or herself.

Transmission of false data will revolve around the broadcasting or distributing data to any other person concerning an identified or identifiable person knowing it to be false with the intent to cause psychological or economic harm.

However, it is the issue of transmission of nude and intimate pictures that is set to affect a number of social media users, especially youths. According to the Bill, anyone who unlawfully and intentionally by means of a computer or information system makes available, broadcasts or distributes a data message containing any intimate image of an identifiable person without the consent of the person concerned causing the humiliation or embarrassment of such person shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level ten or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.

The Bill states that intimate images means a visual depiction of a person made by any means in which the person is nude, the genitalia or naked female breasts are exposed or sexual acts are displayed. According to the updated draft Bill, the more serious crime of producing and dissemination of racist and xenophobic material will attract up to 10 years.

“Any person who unlawfully and intentionally through a computer or information system —

(a) produces or causes to be produced racist or xenophobic material for the purpose of its distribution;

(b) offers, makes available or broadcasts or causes to be offered, made available or broadcast racist or xenophobic material;

(c) distributes or transmits or causes to be distributed or transmitted racist or xenophobic material;

(d) uses language that tends to lower the reputation or feelings of persons for the reason that they belong to a group of persons distinguished on the grounds set out in section 56 (3) of the Constitution or any other grounds whatsoever, if used as a pretext for any of these factors; Page 14 of 24 shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level fourteen or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.”

The Bill is also set to stamp out on those who possess pornographic material and expose children to pornography as they will be jailed for up to five years.

Those targeted include those who store pornographic material in their computers and cellphones and those who will make pornographic material available to any child or facilitates access by any child to pornography or displays pornographic material to any child; with or without the intention of lowering the child’s inhibitions in relation to sexual activity or inducing the child to have sexual relations with that person.-zp

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