New law to better fight cyber, other crimes committed on social media, digital platforms |25 November 2021
From now on all individuals who commit fraud, harass others, leak private or indecent videos on social media, those who interfere with the operation of any computer system, or information found on any computer system will be committing an offence and could be fined or imprisoned.
This will be possible now that the National Assembly has voted to replace the Computer Misuse Act 1998 by a new and modern Cybercrimes and Other Related Crimes Act.
Presenting the Cybercrimes and Other Related Crimes Bill, 2021 for Assembly members’ consideration and approval, Vice-President Ahmed Afif noted that it has been some time now that efforts are being stepped up to ensure government and private sector services are offered through various digital platforms and the population is being encouraged to continue using these platforms.
Recently, the government also presented its strategic plan to develop the financial sector through a technology better known as Seychelles Fintech Strategy and it has also released its national agenda for digital economy.
“It is a fact that Covid-19 has catalysed a lot of technology related developments and the setting up of several digital platforms. Many of us today, our lives are centred primarily on technology and digital platforms. Today, our children are following and submitting their lessons online and many work places are allowing their employees to work from home using the internet. Today businesses can submit their planning applications and market their services and products online and can also collect their revenues through online financial platforms and similarly effect payments online.
Many of us today use our telephones to pay our utility bills and access many other services, thus making our citizens more and more dependent on the use of information technology and communication in their everyday life and activities.
“But as digital technology development continues to make our lives easier through services that are more accessible and boost economic productivity, this is also increasing different risks associated with digital crimes which are committed through the different online platforms. It is therefore important to have a law which is dynamic and effective, and which can fight such crimes, thus the need for the Cybercrimes and Other Related Crimes Bill 2021,” VP Afif pointed out.
He explained that the Bill will replace the Computer Misuse Act 1998 and it has long been awaited and it therefore comes at an opportune time in the digital development taking place in Seychelles.
“This new piece of legislation is more modern and up to date on crimes that are being committed in the digital space and it is on par with best international practices in this sector,” VP Afif remarked.
He went on to note that there are many aspects that the previous Act of 1998 does not cover, while the present Cybercrimes and Other Related Crimes Bill, 2021 will no doubt address all the loopholes and weaknesses that exist.
As per the new law, anybody who interferes with the operation of any computer system, information found on any computer system, distribute access codes with bad intention and without authorisation, will be committing an offence.
If a person is found in possession of illegal equipment like those which interfere with automatic teller machines (ATM), the individual will be committing an offence and could be charged to pay a fine or could be imprisoned for up to five years.
There have been many incidences of fraud committed through the social media or other digital platforms and the new law will allow for those criminals to be fined and imprisoned for up to 10 years.
Other familiar crimes like extortion, harassment, and stalking also taking place through different platforms will each be dealt with severely.
In instances where a person uses a digital platform to communicate with another person what is considered offensive information with the aim to annoy, harass or disturb the person’s peace of mind and private life, this will be considered an offence and the guilty party will face a fine or be sentenced up to five years imprisonment.
Private videos of adults as well as indecent videos of children have found their way on the social media and other digital platforms and shared among users but from now on these actions will be criminalised under the new law and those found guilty will be fined or face imprisonment of up to five years.
The new law also takes into account the integrity of telecommunication service providers whereby it will now be an offence for any of them to reveal any information on any case under investigation.
The new law also includes provisions that will allow for measures and procedures to analyse all offences to help speed up the prosecution of those found guilty. These will include procedures to provide electronic information records, to access and seize electronic information that can be used in an investigation, to remove indecent videos from social media and other digital platforms.
There are also provisions in the new law that detail the different mechanisms which would ensure that investigations and prosecutions are carried out effectively.
All members who intervened on the Bill noted the importance of criminalising many actions taking place on social media and other digital platforms, noting that it was high time that legal actions were taken against those guilty individuals.
They argued that the risks are increasing as more and more people use digital platforms to do their everyday transactions. Some members argued that there is still the need for some clearer definitions like defining if the mobile phone is considered as a computer as well as a clearer definition for cyber harassment and cyber extortion.
But following the long debate members agreed on the provisions of the new law.