Online content censorship might be heading to South Africa. The Mail & Guardian reports that the Film and Publication Board has released a draft policy which proposes to regulate the distribution of online content in South Africa.

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The draft policy will require any one who distributes online content in South Africa to classify its online content by March 2016. In terms of the proposed policy online distributors will have the option to either:

  1. have the online content classified in terms of the FPB’s guidelines; or
  2. have the content classified in terms of a FPB accredited system, which follows its guidelines, the FPB Act and its classifications. Distributors of online content will have to pay a prescribed fee to be able to classify online content in terms of the guidelines.

The document states that:

In all classification decisions for digital content, the online distributor must ensure that the board’s classification decision and logo is conspicuously displayed on the landing page of the website, the website catalogue of the online distributor’s landing page of the website, at the point of sale and during the streaming of the digital content

The policy further specifies that the FPB’s classification and its logo will have to appear on all online content. Stakeholders like Google, MTN, Vodacom, Times Media and MultiChoice have already received the draft policy to review and will have until February 2015 to comment and make recommendations on the proposed policy.

The draft goes on to state that a sanction can be used if misleading, incorrect or grossly inadequate classifications are made. The decision by the board will be final and online content distributors will be bill for the classification by the FPB.

The draft also aims to give the FPB the power to order an administrator or online platform to remove any content the board considers harmful and disturbing to children. This power given to the FPB seems to stem from the board’s main mandate, which is to protect children from disturbing and harmful material as well as prevent premature exposure to adult material and experiences. The FPB aims to provide the correct advise in terms of classification so that informed decisions can be made in terms of what children are watching, reading, viewing or what games they are playing.

This is not the first time the FPB has attempted to classify online content and artwork as it attempted to assign a 16N classification to the controversial The Spear painting which depicts a nude Pres. Jacob Zuma.

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