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Analysis : Online Safety Bill Will Protect Weak, Vulnerable

May 22
11:00 2018

The Online Safety Act 2018 will act as a deterrent against those who prey on the weak and vulnerable for their own self-gratification.

It will also deter people who use social me­dia to ridicule, defame and cause shame and harm to the innocent.

These are people who use electronic com­munication to cause harm to others in the form of images and words.

Last year the Fiji Sun spoke to two trau­matised University of the South Pacific stu­dents whose naked photos were among 900 images in a drop box which was later put down.

Once the Act is gazetted, a commissioner will be appointed by the minister, in a simi­lar way as it is done in Australia and New Zealand.


(a) to promote online safety;

(b) to organise awareness and education programmes, including the provision of on­line safety material;

(c) to receive complaints in relation to elec­tronic communication that causes or in­tends to cause harm;

(d) to assess and provide advice in relation to any query or complaint submitted to the Commission;

(e) to investigate complaints and seek to re­solve such complaints, as appropriate;

(f) to consult and work with relevant agen­cies, organisations or governments for the purposes of this Act;

(g) to advise the minister on any issue or matter pertaining to online safety;

(h) to comply with any reporting require­ment prescribed under this Act; and

(i) such other functions conferred upon it or prescribed by this Act.

The Commission has the following pow­ers—

(a) to request for information to assist in any assessment or investigation of a com­plaint under this Act;

(b) to invite experts to assist in any assess­ment or investigation of a complaint under this Act; and

(c) to do all things necessary for the perfor­mance of its functions.

Subject to the provisions of this Act, the Commission may regulate its own proce­dures.

The Act allows complainants to go to the Commissioner to deal with their cases and hopefully resolve them using his or her pow­ers – away from the glare of media publicity.

This will cater for those who prefer to keep a low profile on their cases.

The Commission’s deliberations will be kept confidential unless it is necessary to do so for the purpose of disclosing information for court proceedings and reporting a sus­pected offence or helping in investigation.

Upon receiving a complaint, the commis­sioner may:

  1. a) Seek to resolve the matter, as appropri­ate
  2. b) Serve a notice to the relevant persons requesting the removal of electronic com­munication within the time stipulated in such notice; or
  3. c) Advise the individual making the com­plaint of any action that can be taken under section 17.

Under section 17 any of the following may ap­ply to the court for an order under Section 22:

  •  An individual who alleges that he or she has suffered or may suffer harm as a result of an electronic communication
  •  A parent or legal guardian, if the individ­ual is a child
  •  The legally appointed representative, if the individual has mental incapacity
  • The school principal or head teacher of a school. Or his or her delegate, if the indi­vidual is a child and a student at the school and consents
  •  The Commission on behalf and with the consent, of an individual if the individual has lodged a complaint under this Act; or
  •  The Police, if electronic communication constitutes a threat to the safety of an indi­vidual.

Section 22 says the court, on an application made under Section 17 make the following or­ders against the respondent:

(a) an order to remove or disable the rel­evant electronic communication;

(b) an order that a correction be published;

(c) an order that an apology be published;

(d) an order that the respondent not send similar communications to the applicant or encourage any other person to send similar communications to the applicant;

(e) an order that the respondent not engage in any conduct which is the subject of the complaint; or

(f) such other orders, including payment for monetary compensation or damages as the court deems just and appropriate in the cir­cumstances.

The court may, on an application made under Section 17, make one or more of the following orders against an online content host—

(a) an order to take down or disable public access to material that has been posted or sent;

(b) an order that the identity of the author of an anonymous or pseudonymous com­munication be released to the court;

(c) an order that a correction be published in any manner that the court specifies in the order; or

(d) an order that a right of reply be given to the individual making the application in any manner that the court specifies in the order.

Non compliance can lead to a conviction for an individual and a fine not exceed­ing $5000 or jail term of not more than six months or both. For a body corporate, it’s a fine not exceeding $20,000 for a director.

For a manager or officer in charge it’s not more than $10,000 or not more than one year in jail or both.

For an individual convicted of posting an electronic communication to cause harm to a person, the individual gets a fine no more than $20,000 or jail term not more than five years or both.

For body corporate, the fine is not more than $100,000 and for a director, manager or officer in charge for the time being the fine is not more than $50,000, a jail term of not more than seven years or both.


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