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Time to control this behaviour

Published: 
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Al-Rawi targets fake news, pics online...
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, left, greets Sally Singh, president of the Association of Real Estate Agents (AREA), as director of the Financial Intelligence Unit, Susan Francois and CEO of Massy Realty Sharon Inglefield look on during yesterday’s breakfast meeting hosted by AREA. PHOTO: NICOLE DRAYTON

Social media users who post gory and irresponsible videos, comments and photographs to create sensation and instil fear and panic among T&T citizens beware!

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi will tomorrow take to Cabinet an amended version of the Cybercrime Bill to deal with reckless users who are now out of control in sharing unverified information.

Once Cabinet gives the all clear, Al-Rawi says the bill will stop the abusers of social media in their tracks.

Al-Rawi revealed his plan yesterday as he responded to a question from a member of the public on how the Government intends to treat with social media users who “plaster things” on Facebook, many of which are untrue.

“It is very cruel and a waste of the State and nation’s time because of a false report that can circulate on social media within 15 minutes. Is there something being put in place, so if someone creates a false report that they will be taken to the full task of the law... or face the highest level of punishment to discourage that?” the unidentified man asked the AG during a question and answer segment at the Association of Real Estate Agents’ breakfast meeting at the Government Campus Plaza, Port-of-Spain. (See other story)

In response, Al-Rawi said, “Absolutely. There is the Cybercrime Bill which the LRC (Legislative Review Committee) has completed and which is going to Cabinet this Thursday.”

Al-Rawi said the reason why the Government choose the bill as a priority was to control the “Roman Colosseum phenomenon...the thirst for blood, scandal and imagery” now taking place online.

“Our society runs the risk of being deemed to be very much, in lost measure...out of control. The irresponsibility that is exercised without any regard for the consequence of families...or to children or persons who are victims or to just create panic and fear.”

Al-Rawi’s plan comes in the wake of complaints by acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams, that such posts, in the face of a spiralling murder rate, was creating a logistical headache for the police, who often have to go out to check the veracity of such postings.

Yesterday, the AG described some of the things put on social media as “astounding. So we focused on the Cybercrime Bill and we have made some very important changes in terms of the previous version that was in circulation. I think the country is going to be very pleased with the product.”

So far, Al-Rawi said there had been extensive consultations with the Media Association of T&T, Publishers Association, T&T Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) and other entities on the matter.

“We are ready to rock and roll. This is a step in the right direction to control this kind of behaviour.”

Questioned by the media on how the bill will affect the content of social media and what sanctions will be imposed on those irresponsible users, Al-Rawi opted not to divulge any information, saying he preferred Cabinet to first give its approval.

“Then I would go into all of the particulars. Suffice to say, it is a very robust piece of law on which there has been a significant amount of consultation and I believe it is in the right zone of operations. I don’t want to dilute what was said here today.”

The bill was first presented in Parliament in 2014 and later brought back to the House in 2015.

The Bill

Clause 19 seeks to create the offence of violating a person’s privacy by capturing and sharing pictures or videos of a person’s private area without their consent. This offence would carry a fine of $100,000 and two years imprisonment on summary conviction or a fine of $500,000 and three years’ imprisonment on conviction on indictment.

Clause 20 seeks to criminalise the act of sending multiple electronic mail messages that are unsolicited and which causes harm to a person or damage to a computer. This offence would carry a fine of $300,000 and three years imprisonment on summary conviction or a fine of $500,000 and five years imprisonment on conviction on indictment.