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African regulators plan continental online content laws

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African regulators are developing a harmonised regulation framework for broadcast, video-on-demand and over-the-top content in both legacy and new media.

Regulators from SA, Kenya and Nigeria say the desired framework is meant to control the massive volumes of unfiltered online content that poses potential harm to vulnerable groups such as children.

According to the officials for the countries, digital platforms have become a prime breeding ground for child grooming and circulation of child sexual abuse material by syndicates that operate across national boundaries.

The world is facing sustained threat of online sexual abuse, and evidence suggests the scale of this abuse is increasing at an unprecedented rate.

According to WeProtect Global Alliance, its research indicates an increase in grooming; the production, viewing and sharing of sexual abuse material; and live streaming for payment.

For Africa to counter this threat, chief executive officers of the Film and Publication Board (FPB) of SA, Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) and National Film and Video Censors Board of Nigeria met recently to discuss how to align and synergise content regulation mechanisms on the continent.

The project is being spearheaded by the FPB, which will later this year host officials from Eswatini Communications Commission and KFCB for training and benchmarking.

Dr Mashilo Boloka, FPB acting CEO, says: “For society to derive the highest good from the opportunities the digital space provides, it is essential that the negative aspects are mitigated through content regulation.”

He explains further: “At the 2021 conference, we resolved to focus on four key goals: continuing the process to align the ratings frameworks of African countries into one harmonised ratings matrix that would make distribution of content across Africa easier; benchmarking best practices in the use of technologies to improve the agility of content regulators in serving the entertainment sector; giving the youth a voice by including them in all future discussions around content regulation; sharing one research agenda and findings amongst participating countries to assist in improving the relevance of regulatory bodies in a digital world; and creating economies of scale through joint training of regulatory staff.”

Christopher Wambua, KFCB CEO, says his board is already in the process of developing a co-regulation framework for broadcast, video-on-demand and over-the-top content in response to the increase in unclassified content.

“We look forward to benchmarking with South Africa and other content regulators with a view to refining our framework without having to reinvent the wheel.”

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