SA unlikely to follow suit with TikTok ban and restrictions

There are two laws in place in SA that 'protects' its citizens from fears that Tiktok was accessing their data and spreading propoganda.

The recent debate around the concerns that Tiktok could be used to access citizens’ data or spread pro-Beijing propaganda, which has seen a number of restrictions being put on the app in several countries, has raised the question of whether South Africa itself would consider banning or restricting the app.

Currently, there are two laws that government has implemented that now control the way South Africans use social media and deal with personal information.

Last year, the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies gazetted the Film and Publications Regulations, 2022, enacting South Africa’s internet content laws which give the Film and Publications Board (FPB) powers to classify and regulate all online content in the country.

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In 2021, the South African government passed the South Africa Personal Information Act – something we have come to know as the POPIA act –   which is a law that requires all organisations handling personal data to comply with its regulations or face fines by the Information Regulator.

These two legislations alone should provide enough protection for South Africans from having a technological giant like ByteDance (who owns Tiktok) from accessing its citizens’ data and spreading of pro-Beijing propaganda, provided it can be classified as hate speech or other harmful content that the FPB has the power to ban.

 SA not too concerned

So it seems that the South African government is not too concerned about this at the moment and has other more pressing issues in the country to address.

They will have to get to it eventually though. When they do though, social media and PR expert Estelle Nagel, based in Cape Town, advises that a group of people who don’t seem to understand the mechanics of social media aren’t the ones that should introduce the mechanisms to protect users.

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She points to the US government’s bizarre sitting, where  TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee to address long-standing concerns about the social media company’s ties to China and the potential risks to national security, and stressed that SA should take notes from their mishaps, so as to go about addressing it in the same haphazard way.

Stupid questions?

“Richard Hudson asked whether or not TikTok accesses home wifi networks. August Pfluger instructed Shou Zi Chew to rename the company’s internal security project nicknamed Project Texas because it was ‘not appropriate’.

“One representative accused TikTok of election interference, another accused the company of peddling communism to American youth. A more bizarre theory posited that TikTok studied pupil dilation in order to present more likeable content to users,” she said.

“The TikTok trial highlights the fact that governments need to work together to develop a coordinated approach to regulating the internet, by setting international standards for data protection and privacy, as well as the establishment of new regulatory bodies to oversee internet companies,” she advised.

Meanwhile, countries such as India have banned the application permanently while other countries such as Canada, Taiwan and Britain have banned it from government devices.

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