Internet freedom must be protected but also respected – Independent Online

Cyber security, now theres an unusual juxtaposition. Trying to control the free flow of information on the internet is like trying to pull the plug on gravity.

Netizens are panicked, and rightly so, over the latest financial computer worm WannaCry which hit 150 countries. The good old mattress seems to be an appealing option to stash hard earned moolah.

A dark cloud hangs over the USs formidable security as there is a good possibility that Russian tinkering helped deliver motor-mouth Donald Trump to the countrys presidential seat. If true, the security breach is far-reaching and could turn geopolitics on its head.

There are a myriad viruses that challenge coders on a daily basis.

According to Chinas IT giant Tencents annual report on internet security, last year alone its anti-virus lab identified 148 million new internet viruses.

The US insurance industry estimates the cost of cybercrime to the global economy at more than $450 billion.

Governments all over the world are seeking to manage and rein in cyber criminals bustling trade. A mammoth task, but one must admire their temerity for trying. Even if its just to placate ordinary citizens and help them sleep at night.

In recent weeks, the US and China passed tough cyber security laws.

Chinas cyber security law came into effect on June 1. The country has 730 million netizens. The government has clarified that it was not intended to manage foreign websites nor restrict the free flow of information.

The Cyberspace Administration of China released a statement saying that the law was to prevent any infringement of its cyber sovereignty. It would stop illegal information entering China under the pretext of providing free flow of information.

The administration believed this did not contradict its support for the free flow of information.

In the real world, all enterprises or individuals are required to observe laws of the countries they enter, and there should be no exception in cyberspace, it said. While the merits of this statement may be heavily contested by freedom of information activists, there is a positive part of the law which deals with the protection of personal information.

Professor of law at the Communication University of China told monthly magazine Beijing Review that the law would protect the publics personal information.

The trading of customers personal information is a pesky business which internet and cellphone users have to endure. The law clarifies the responsibilities of internet service providers and operators and promises heavy penaltiesfor trading personal information.

A survey by the Internet Society of China showed 84% of internet users were affected by personal information leaks.

In South Africa, Parliament has tabled the controversial Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill for public comment this month. The bill has been doing the rounds since 2015 and is inching closer to being signed into law.

Activists have cautioned that parts of the bill are so broadly defined that they are open to abuse. For example, whistleblowers and journalists have little or no protection. If information is obtained unlawfully, even if it is in the public interest, both the whistleblower who leaked it and the journalist who published it can face criminal charges. Parts of the bill regrettably also gag freedom of speech. If it succeeds, it would be a blight on our hard-fought democracy.

Drafting law to combat cyber crime is a worthy pursuit but turning ordinary citizens and journalists into criminals is a crime in itself.

Melanie Peters is the Live Editor of Weekend Argus. She is on a 10-month scholarship with the China Africa Press Centre. Instagram: mels_chinese_takeout

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Internet freedom must be protected but also respected – Independent Online

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