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FPB goes after Internet images

By Siyabonga Africa
Johannesburg, 27 May 2009

The Film and Publication Board (FPB) is drafting guidelines on handling child pornography in prosecution. The Protocol on the Management of Child Abuse Images is expected to be made public by the end of September.

“We have never had such a document in this country before,” says Goodness Zulu, head of the FPB's Child Protection Unit. “The protocol will help clarify a number of issues in terms of handling child pornography images as evidence in a court of law.”

Zulu explains that in an instance where a child pornography Web site is hosted in SA, the protocol document will be able to dictate how the Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) could pull the Web site offline and store the images as evidence.

The document will also guide prosecutors on how to use the images as evidence in court and what the court would do with it when the offenders are prosecuted.

“In the following months, we will be engaging with stakeholders, such as the ISPA and the Wireless Application Service Providers' Association, so that we can have a draft document by mid-September and a final one at the end of the month.”

The document is being drafted by Mkhwanazi, a local law firm, and Susan Kreston, who is an expert on topics such as Internet crimes against children and cyber crime.

Global action

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recently released its guidelines for the protection of children in cyberspace, in connection with the 2009 World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. The guidelines are expected to be finalised in October and will be targeted at policymakers, parents and children.

“We will strongly support the guidelines when they are released,” says Zulu. “The Internet is a borderless environment and we need to create a safety environment for our children.”

Zulu says the FPB is already following some of the guidelines that have been proposed by the ITU. She points to the board's recent acceptance into International Association of Internet Hotlines as one of the ways it is stepping up its fight against online child pornography.

“So, if someone in SA finds child pornography images on a Web site being hosted in a foreign country, they can report it to us and we can call the relevant law enforcers to take down the site and prosecute the offenders.”

The FPB also highlights its Internet hotline system as a local measure to combat online child pornography. The Web site was developed by the board, the Department of Home Affairs and ePages.net. It allows members of the public to report, in complete anonymity, any child pornography or sexual abuse images discovered accidentally on the Internet.

Legally speaking

Bowman Gilfillan ICT lawyer Carmen Cupido says the protocol document is a good move on the FPB's side in consolidating all its efforts in fighting online child pornography.

“We definitely need such a document to be published and it would help members of the public and other stakeholders understand what the FPB could do should they find child pornography.”

Cupido says government has a role to play in training children and parents on the proper use of technology and on issues of child pornography. She believes the curriculum for life orientation, a subject taught from Grade one to 12, should include matters relating to the safe use of technology.

“If the protocol results in a booklet being published which contains details about the child pornography hotline, the office of the interception centres, cyber inspectors and the notification and takedown procedures, among others, this will definitely benefit the public.”

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