Communications Minister Brian Mushimba says if fake news, cyber bullying and other computer based crimes become a threat to national security, government may be forced to ban access to Facebook, Google and other sites.
Speaking on Radio Phoenix’ Let the People Talk, Tuesday, Mushimba said government may be forced to go the China way.
“The issue with cyber security and the bullying, fake news and all these other abuses, as we fight them, if we feel at any point as government that it is getting out of hand and it is a national security concern, we may take the route that others have taken. If you have been to China, if you have been to Ethiopia, there are restrictions to certain sites you can go to and certain things you can do. We don’t want to go there. We are not that type of government. We are a government that wants to protect rights, promote rights, and we want productive use of the tools. If there’s a larger section of the population that chooses to prey on people and do all kinds of activities and we make a decision to go that route, you will see why we have taken that decision but we don’t want to take that decision,” Mushimba said.
Asked who defines that abuse has crossed the line, Mushimba said; “when abuse and crimes perpetuated through social media become a national security concern…you have been to China and you know how you can’t access Facebook, Google and all those things.”
He said it was sad that people were abusing something as innovative as social media.
“It is sad that something so powerful and innovative like social media and the internet can actually fall prey to the abuse that slowly we are picking up and its there. You see people creating fake accounts, insulting people, all the way to insulting the Head of State. You see fake news being generated and just many other unscrupulous ways of using social media when it is a powerful tool of disseminating information, get it to wherever you want to get it to very quickly, and we need to actually use it productively,” he said.
“It is a social good that needs to be regulated and managed. When I speak about the bills that we are trying to take to Parliament, we have that in mind in terms of trying to create a platform that is productive and beneficial to the people and make sure that those people who have bad intentions are kept away. Government has that responsibility, we cannot jet let our people and expose them to all kinds of manner of inconveniences that might be coming from some quarters that may be taking advantage of the social media platforms and do the things that they want to do. So through the agencies that we have, through ZICTA and other regulators, in this case through the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting who regulate content, we are actively using the tools that we have, identifying pockets of concerns and addressing those. Recently we have seen people that have been prosecuted and jailed using social media fraudulently and we will continue using those tools to make sure that we protect the general public.”
Mushimba explained the bills which he intended to present to Parliament.
“The bills that I am talking to Parliament have been clamped into three, there is a Cyber Security and a Cyber Crimes Bill and what this bill will do is to ensure cyber security and also criminalise computer and network based offenses. When we take this bill to Parliament and it comes to pass, some of the benefits we should see include protection of victims against cyber crimes and it will also establish Zambia Cyber Security Agency that will provide oversight and powers and guidelines to investigate and prosecute these crimes,” said Mushimba.
“The other bill is the Data Protection Bill which also speaks to personal information, you pay for your airline using your credit card, you should be protected that no one will access that information and use it scrupulously. We also have another bill on e-commerce, we are going to do a lot of transactions electronically with the internet, we want to make sure that when people do those transactions can be protected and there will be a pin code that will be activated to make sure that we prosecute.”