Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi has challenged the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago to find a middle ground on the Cybercrime bill so that criminal acts online can finally be prosecuted.
Al-Rawi made the challenge at the ‘Law Enforcement and Social Media: Opportunities and Challenges’ panel discussion hosted by the British High Commission and the British Council at the Trinidad Hilton on Monday.
The Attorney General noted the Media Association had been one of the leading voices against the proposed Cybercrime Bill, but while he acknowledged their concerns he similarly had questions about the call for exemptions for journalists given the broad definition attached to the profession in the digital age.
"Who is a journalist? When do you become a journalist? What privilege exists that ought to allow blanket journalism or qualified journalism? Do we borrow from the Reynolds principle in defamation? How do we exempt it in the context of a crime?" asked the Attorney General during the discussion. He called on the association to state a definitive position.
"Put forward concrete positions on when is cybercrime legislation going to be ready from the perspective of the media. What is the fourth estate going to deem as acceptable in a democracy such as ours because it cannot most respectfully be an unfettered incursion into everything? There must be boundary and limitation," said Al-Rawi.
The Attorney General pointed out there had been two major international examples of our online reputation with regard to cybercrime and terrorist activity being linked negatively. Namely our regular attachment to Islamic State recruits and our involvement in the creation of the entity that would become Cambridge Analytica.
Al-Rawi also lamented that suicide cases in this country had also been connected to cyberbullying.
He said while social media had been many benefits, it was important to find a way to deter the negative aspects of the medium.
"Social media is the resonance of a lot of good but a lot of bad. In the resonance of defamation, in the resonating of fake news, in the resonating of data harvesting, microtargeting, breach of privacy, computer misuse, Cambridge Analytica," said Al-Rawi, "Social media can be managed, the question is how and within what parameters and whether it is too large to be managed. I think what we're looking for is to manage the effects of it that there is at least a proportionate right. Those rights must not shut down public expression, they ought not to shut down the engines that cause this to work but there must be some form of meaningful redress."
Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith also spoke on the pros and cons of social media during the conference but admitted it should keep his officers on their toes.
"We can extract information, we can pump the right information. We can monitor situations, we can get real-time information. The negative you have to recall is that you have to be careful what it is you say. A police officer once you are in uniform you have to be careful at all times. You have to be cognisant to the fact that anywhere you turn there is someone with a camera and now it allows the police officer to understand, even if by force, I am obligated to adhere to my responsibilities of a police officer," said Griffith.