Over the last few weeks “fake news” has been spreading faster than the COVID-19 virus. It has become such a problem that whilst attending to the many regulations to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, a further regulation was found to be necessary to control the spread of “fake news”.
Regulation 11(5) of the Disaster Management Act, Government Gazette No: 43107 dated 18 March 2020, states that the dissemination of fake news is criminalised when published with intent to deceive.
In general, terms, if you make and share content knowing that it is false with unsupported facts or information, with the intention to mislead another person, you are guilty of a criminal offence. In a recent criminal matter, a man from the Western Cape recently made a YouTube video sharing information with the people of South Africa that was found to be fake. The video was based on the COVID-19 virus testing equipment being contaminated with the virus already which naturally caused mass panic amongst the people of South Africa. He has since been arrested and criminally prosecuted. If he is found guilty of the criminal offence, he may be fined and/or sentenced to jail for a period not exceeding 6 months.
Now, what if I told you that you could also be criminally prosecuted for simply forwarding and/or sharing fake news on your social media platforms. We all know from the Oscar Pistorius trial that you can be found guilty of a criminal offence even if you did not have the direct intention to commit a criminal offence.
Everyone, therefore, has an added duty to ensure that any information you may share on your social media platforms are both factually true and correct. To be safe, it should be corroborated by a reputable news source before sharing. If you simply forward and/or share the “fake news” without bothering to ascertain whether the information is true, you could be criminally prosecuted and find yourself sentenced to jail.
Please contact BBP Law Inc. should you find yourself uncertain about your legal rights and obligations during this time. We will help you to spread the actual news.
For further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.