The industrial age is done and we now live in the present digital age. You must have noticed that the generation that we live in today is practically a digital kingdom. Every household today will possess a computer, phone or digital device. With this fact, we are constantly transferring information daily with a simple double tap and click of the share button.
While this may be the world we live in today, the Ugandan Computer Misuse Act that was enacted in 2011 was drafted to enhance safety and security in our increasing digitalized environment through the prevention of unlawful access, abuse or misuse of information systems. Since then, the Computer (Amendment) Act 2022 has officially been passed into law. The Act promoter emphasized that the existing laws did not specifically address any regulations of information sharing on social media.
The need to amend the Computer Misuse Act, of 2011 rose due to advances in technology, an upsurge in cybercrime, and controversial provisions that rendered the law a tool for suppressing dissent.
The objectives of the amendment Act include;
i) To enhance the provisions on unauthorised access to information or data;
ii) Prohibit the sharing of any information relating to a child without authorisation from a parent or guardian;
iii) Prohibit the sending or sharing of information that promotes hate speech;
iv) Prohibit the sending or sharing of false, malicious and unsolicited information;
v) To restrict persons convicted of any offence under the Computer Misuse law from holding public office for 10 years.
“You are what you tweet.”Alex Tew, Founder & CEO of Calm
An offence under this Act is committed when a person, without authorisation accesses or intercepts any program or data or video records, or voice or shares another person’s information that relates to that person commits an offence. This would mean that any tweet/retweet, share, or comment on any digital information without their permission would amount to an offence under the Act.
The Act also prohibits the unauthorised sharing of information about children. A person who wishes to share or transmit any information about a child on a computer must obtain consent from said child’s parent, guardian or any person having authority to make decisions on behalf of the child. This extends to social media as well.
Provisions in the Act tackle hate speech, providing that a person shall not write, send or share any information through a computer that is likely to ridicule, degrade, or demean another; creates division among persons; or promote hostility among the group of persons, tribe, ethnicity, religon or gender.
Sharing of unsolicited information, misleading or malicious information relating to that person is prohibited under the Act. Unsolicited information means information transmitted to a person using the internet without the person’s consent but does not include unsolicited commercial communication.
Cyber harassment is prohibited under the Act. The use of a computer for making any request, suggestion or proposal which is obscene, lewd, lascivious or indecent and threatening to inflict injury or physical harm to the person or property of any person or knowingly permitting any electronic communications device to be used for any of the purposes mentioned is cyber harassment.
Many concerns have arisen after the passing of the Act. The previous Act was used previously used to suppress digital rights including free expression and access to information which is a fundamental constitutional right. Despite this concern, the Act might be eminent to address the emerging technologies it seeks to address. Regardless like most laws passed only time will tell.
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